Africa Fashion Week London kicks off tomorrow

Africa’s fashion industry is booming. A new generation of designers are gaining recognition. Africa was once seen only as a source of inspiration for big brands – from Yves Saint Laurent’s landmark collection of raffia beaded dresses in 1967 to Burberry Prorsum’s wax prints for spring/summer 2012.

burberry prorsum tribal shirt

But African designers are finding customers around the world and a thriving industry is growing around them Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) starts tomorrow. Its in its second year and was the idea of Nigerian entrepreneur – Ronke Ademiluyi. ‘My aim is to create more visibility for African designers and to create a one-stop shop for the public. We were expecting 500 people last year and almost 5000 turned up. It was something people had clearly been waiting for.’

Ronke Ademiluyi - founder of Africa Fashion Week London

This year, AFWL showcases 60 designers including Nigeria’s Adebayo Jones, known for his lavish evening and bridal wear, who will provide the gala finale. ‘As I was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent, I hope my participation will inspire young designers, he says. The best African designers balance global seasonal trends with an intelligent reimagining of indigenous fabrics and adornments.

Adebayo Jones

Nigerian designer – Amaka Osakwe’s label, Maki Oh turns indigenous textiles into sensual pieces that evolve traditional dress practises. She launched in 2010 and her latest collection focuses on body-conscious silhouettes made from adire. ‘I want to make Nigerians aware of their own fabrics, which are infused with meanings that have been passed down through generations.’

Amaka Osakwe - Maki Oh

Jeffrey Kimathi uses fibres of the baobab tree for his Jamhuri Wear luggage range. Ghana’s Aisha Obuobi launched Christie Brown in 2008 and has become Accra’s womenswear with detailing such as covered buttons, feathers and fringing. ‘My work is about the beauty of simplicity.

Aisha Obuobi of Christie Brown & Jamhuri Wear's Ipad case

Celebrities are catching up too. Kelis was spotted in a piece from Lisa Folawiyo’s label – Jewel by Lisa. Solange Knowles is a fan of Maki Oh and Michelle Obama is regularly seen wearing pieces by London-based Nigerian designer Duro Olowu.

Michelle Obama wears Duro Olowu

Michelle Obama wears Duro Olowu

Kelis in Lisa Folawiyo's Jewel by Lisa

Solange Knowles wears a Maki Oh blouse

Solange Knowles wears a Maki Oh skirt

The African fashion industry still faces challenges. There’s a lack of formal fashion education, which means there are problems from pattern-cutting and styling to marketing and PR. There’s no continent-wide body to promote funding and poor infrastructure slows production and raises costs.  Olowu is optimistic. ‘The customer must have desire for the products on their own merit and only then will they ask: “Oh, where was this made?”’ he says. ‘There are a lot of talented African designers showing potential and that’s why the fashion world is looking very hard at Africa right now.’

List of Designers Attending AFWL 2012

  • ADEBAYO JONES
  • ANITA QUANSAH
  • ASKMOOFA
  • JAMES BRENDAN
  • TT DALK
  • LILLY FASHION
  • HOUSE OF ADJEIWAAH
  • MIA BY MIA NISBET
  • TRISH.O COUTURE
  • SEVERINE
  • TY-TYS
  • YUTEES
  • RACHEL KIRYA….THE COLLECTION
  • AFRO FANATIC
  • MONIS
  • THREADZS CREATION
  • OZORA
  • L’EMIRAL COUTURE
  • KEVE
  • VADIRA 7
  • BEBE GRAFITI
  • KEMUNTO
  • HOUSE OF JOLA
  • SET FASHION FREE
  • ÜBER AFRICA COLLECTIVE
  • HOUSE OF MARIE
  • ICONOLA
  • GLUE CLOTHING
  • TAYE TAYLOR
  • ELFRIDA
  • KETERE
  • TEE THREADS
  • KIKI CLOTHING
  • APRIL 2ND
  • ELDIMAA FASHION
  • SALLY INTIEGO
  • VIGOLD
  • ELLA & GABBY
  • DAVIVA
  • ASANDIA HOGAN
  • WANGU JEANS
  • KETO COUTURE
  • GREEN MAMBA
  • AFRO FASHION
  • MMD DESIGNS
  • ROUGE VALLARI
  • PATIENCE PLEASE
  • REMI LAGOS
  • HOUSE OF BUNOR
  • BERRY’S COUTURE
  • GEORGE ADESEGUN
  • BRIGITTE MERKI
  • HOUSE OF TAYO
  • HOUSE OF FARRAH
  • BULLDOFF
  • JOANSU JEWELLERY
  • HOUSE OF NWOCHA
  • JIMIKING
  • LYZE

Source: Metro, Africa Fashion Week London website

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Seyi was an author at www.gistus.com.
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