Trading on Africa

Mail & Guardian article: Trading on Africa

The aesthetics of the African continent will take centre stage in the forthcoming Africa Fashion Week.

Observers will get a summary of the latest styles from Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, London, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States and Zimbabwe.

More than 20 couturiers from South Africa will show their designs in what is hoped will be a well-attended, entertaining fashion platform alongside a serious trade expo.
Public awareness of local fashion has been heightened by the national and regional platforms set up at regular intervals throughout the year and although the scene has some emergent, individualistic superstars, African style is shaped by a collective consciousness. Heritage, culture, tradition and political struggle has infiltrated local design.
But, as we move towards expressing our style freely, there has to be a job-creation component that can encourage growth for African fashion. The Africa Fashion Trade Expo that takes place alongside Africa Fashion Week aims to accelerate growth in the continent’s multi-billion-rand fashion industry.

Photo: AFI/K.Rossouw/AFW 2011

International recognition

Under the aegis of African Fashion International (AFI), what is hoped will be Africa’s largest fashion trade expo is endorsed by South Africa Tourism, entrepreneurs, boutique buyers and other ­professionals. Local designers hail from our three biggest cities. Visiting from Cape Town are Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel du Toit of Kluk CGT, Tart and Stefania Morland. Swimwear designer Dax Martin is from Durban and Thula Sindi, Marianne Fassler and David Tlale are from Johannesburg.

Many of the broader global designers featured have already gained international recognition. Ghanaian label Kiki Clothing, founded by Titi Ademola, was worn by American actress Nicole Ari Parker at the Oscars this year.

New York designer LaQuan Smith started off designing custom pieces for an array of celebrities, pop-culture icons and artists, including Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Sessilee Lopez and fashion personality Andre J.

Bunmi Koko, who has a Scottish-Nigerian heritage, is from ­London. His clothing has been worn by Michelle Obama.

The Africa Fashion Awards include the African Designer of the Year award. Nomination criteria include representation of a global African aesthetic with potential global reach.


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