Dr. Erica de Greef is a South African-based, independent fashion curator, researcher, and activist with a keen focus on the politics, power, and poetics of contemporary African fashion. Her work looks to investigate the impact of the past on contemporary creativity and seeks out the possibilities for new, decolonial fashion futures. She is co-founder of the African Fashion Research Institute [AFRI], together with fashion practitioner and thinker, Lesiba Mabitsela. AFRI aims to offer both real and virtual spaces that engage with contemporary African fashion as an archive, like discourse, and as diverse ways of being. Erica led a robust and dynamic program of exhibitions and research engaging with African fashion as the first Fashion Curator (2018-2019) at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA)
In 2019 Erica graduated with a Ph.D. in African Studies from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her thesis explored the persistence of colonial and apartheid legacies marking the dress and fashion collections at Iziko Museums. Two decades after the end of apartheid, three distinct museum collections are still tainted by the segregationist effects of their distinct disciplines, namely fine arts, ethnography, and social history, albeit merged since 2000 as Iziko Museums. She argues that African fashion objects and practices when framed as decolonial and alternative archives, can contribute to reimaging future narratives, rescript past silences, and redress current misconceptions.
Her career in fashion education and fashion production has seen her contribute to the development of African fashion curricula, various research-driven exhibitions, and a wide range of interdisciplinary projects and publications. Her focus in fashion education pioneered a decolonising of fashion theory from the global south. She has published articles in numerous journals such as The International Fashion Studies Journal and Textile History, and on online platforms including the Fashion Studies Journal, iFashion, and the Fashion Research Network. She has also contributed book chapters to various edited volumes, including Creating African Fashion Histories: Politics, Museums and Sartorial Practice (forthcoming), Fashion and Politics (2019), and 9Takes (2010), and co-edited the forthcoming publication Rethinking Fashion Globalisation (2021) with Bloomsbury.