It’s that time of year again… Africa Fashion Week London…2014
It was the time of year again where designers, fashion enthusiasts and Africa’s culture collectives come together to celebrate Africa Fashion Week London. I’ve been attending Africa Fashion Week London since its inception four years ago, and this year, as promised, was a colourful assortment of fashion and design from in and around the continent.
I met up with Caitlin Leslie (), marketing mogul from Farfetch.com, Emma Amoafo, founder/designer of Friday Born Designs and bloggers Maryam Bitege, owner of Creativ Junkie ; and Mary Desola Adeniyi, founder of popgoesfashion.com to indulge in the latest developments from some of Africa’s most sought after designers, and catch a glimpse of what we can expect to see in the way of fashion from the diaspora.
Firstly, let’s be honest, AFWL isn’t really a Fashion Week is it?
As a whole, African Fashion Week London doesn’t give me the same level of excitement as it used to, and regrettably this isn’t so much down to the fashion itself, as much as the quality and execution of the event. Hosted in London’s Kensington Olympia’s main hall, this year’s event was a runway show, in the middle of a standard selection of African cuisine, a less than satisfactory VIP section, and a predictable selection of African market stalls (with the exception of Kiyana Wraps!).
Tickets for Africa Fashion Week London retail to the general public at £20 for unreserved seats, whilst VIP tickets with access to all shows, complimentary orange/apple juice and bread and chilli snacks range between £50-£70. I believe everybody I know who went were given a complimentary tickets, so I can’t help but feel anyone who sincerely bought tickets for AFWL must have felt hard done by.
There were over two hour interval between shows, with little or nothing for visitors to do in between, and repeat performances by Afrobeats pop singer Valentine, and his shirtless entourage, which was so incredibly cringe. I guess the silver lining was that as unforgiving as this post must sound so far, Africa Fashion Week London 2014 was significantly more palatable than the previous year.
Thankfully, I didn’t come for the frills, I came for the fashion.
I was most excited to see Sylvia Owori, KassKouture, RAAH, Fyyfe and of course Adama Paris; all of whom showcased collections that were very impressive and inspirational.
I’ll start by congratulating my fellow Ugandan (whoop) Sylvia Owori, a leading fashion powerhouse, publisher and entrepreneur, who I admire greatly for championing global environmental change through her designs. Her prints are purely African with fabrics are tailored from her workshop in Mukono.
This year Sylvia debuted a tropical and electric collection comprising of mainly silk jumpsuits and dresses that although had a contemporary palette, had a vintage 1960’s style. Striking and exciting!
Next on my love list for the night was the ready-to-wear fashion brand RAAH designs, owned by Rahima Mohamed, who debuting her collection “Fly/Fly High”. RAAH designs, was the collections of all collections that given the chance, I would have bought there and then. I found myself repeatedly saying “OMG, I love/need/want that”.
The designs were sophisticated and edgy, bold and yet still approachable. Rightly so, the collection received praise from the New African Woman Editor-in-Chief, Jane Jere and AFWL Founder Ronke Ademiluyi among others on the success of the showcase.
The collection I endured the day for was by Senegalese designer, Adama Paris. I met and sat on a panel with Adama earlier this year at Cambridge University (read more here), where we discussed the future of African fashion. Adama Paris, is the real thing. She is the unstoppable force behind Black Fashion Week in Prague, Czech Republic, Bahia, Brazil, and this year for the first time in Toronto Canada.
With the lights down low, her models appeared on stage in a multi-coloured ocean of chiffon dresses, flooding the stage like beautifully spilt paint. It was truly mesmerising and worth the wait. Surprisingly, Adama seemed uncomfortable in receiving praise for her collection and hurried off the stage, with a look of what I would guess was dissatisfaction?!
Whatever the reason, her collection was as astonishing as I expected.
This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed my confusion with African Fashion Week London, as I feel the event as a whole doesn’t give credit to the fashion itself. It’s a showcase, yes, but it is not a ‘Fashion Week’, and falls so way below any other international fashion week I’ve been witness to. It lacks the exclusivity, presentation and value (especially to paying visitors). Additionally, as an African, in London, who knows a bit about fashion, the perceived connotations of the title are slightly misleading and that makes me quite uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, despite my objections, it is a stage for African designers, up-coming talent and visual inspiration; and for that I am thankful.
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