Fifty-Four magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Mwai Yeboah and Fashion writer Gene Just take us through their highlights of Africa Fashion Week London 2022, which took place in October.
Fashion is not just apparel, it’s a way of life for plenty of people. It is an expression of people’s culture or personal cultures right down to their identity and beyond. It is grandeur storytelling and who better to tell the story than the inherently expressive people of Africa?
Each year, Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) throws the biggest catwalk shows and live exhibition events to celebrate talented diaspora designers at the legendary art deco Freemasons’ Hall, near the West End. The event is a culmination of rich African creativity from the moment you step into the hall. This year on the 8 and 9 October, hundreds of fashion lovers came from all over the world to engage and use fashion as a form of commentary on Africa’s history, politics, and the poetics of clothing and fashion accessories.
It’s a rich networking opportunity for designers who will also gain access to beneficial contacts and knowledge being shared among other prominent attendees and fashion enthusiasts.
Celebrating undeniable talent
“Together we will bring Africa’s garment and textiles industry and connect them with the international market”, says Princess Ademiluyi Ronke, Founder of Africa Fashion Week London.
Fuelled by her passion to bring African fashion to the forefront of the global fashion industry, the event is a glimpse into the untapped wealth of African fashion.
“This is imperative to build a conducive business environment for the emerging African fashion brands.”
Ademiluyi’s vision provides a platform for over 30 fashion industry peers to share their art on the catwalk and at the exhibition. Global Africa is opening up to the African diaspora and extending its stories to everyone. It is a home for all African and Caribbean designers in particular, and for those who want to know more and support the event.
At the venue, Pan-African bank sponsor, Ecobank, set up the Adire Pavilion, a draping and structured installation of handmade heritage textiles by Nigerian designers as well as the Exhibition Marketplace where ethical and sustainable fashion, accessories, footwear, hair and beauty, and holistic therapies are on show and exchanged.
It does not end there, there are also key leaders giving workshops to teach how to make fabric designs, masterclasses on creative resilience, guidance for aspiring designers, and the pioneers who are making fashion sustainable.
A glimpse into the diversity of creativity
Highlights from the two-day catwalk shows that stood out to me included: the attendance from actor and musician Jaden Smith and social media French model and actress Estelle Digridi.
On the catwalk, author and TV personality doctor Emeka Okorocha stepped out in the men’s collection, Chiefo, which specialises in men’s ready-to-wear Kaftans, traditional pants and shirts. His showcase proved cultural relevance in this age of technology, through the subtle manipulation of traditional prints and patterns into modern silhouettes.
Designers for Oyaato Ltd and Piillz n Poizn pulled out the stops. Her collection was something of a socialite’s luxe dream closet. Extravagant brunch dresses and sassy silky two-piece suits graced the hall. Whereas designs by Gugu Mobile Boutique use beading techniques to accessorise and uniquely dress our bodies.
There were also a number of breathtaking moments from brands Soboye, Woman King by Adire Oodua, and Mary Martin. Their runway collections made waves. Applause echoed through Freemasons’ Hall when Zozibini Tunzi, the adorned face of 54 countries, walked in the three shows. Creative director Samson Soboye of Soboye describes how this collection “is about a celebration of life; the bringing back of joy and the fun of dressing up and partying. A reminder of how Black people still know how to smile despite the hardships we have suffered.”
Soboye’s commentary is felt by many people of colour in this space. Although Africa Fashion Week London is such a joyous time for all involved there remains the challenges of putting together such a prestigious event when there is little to no inclusion of Africans in today’s contemporary fashion dialogue. These challenges though aren’t a barrier, he adds with enthusiasm, “it’s a reminder of good things in life. It’s about getting back to pre-pandemic life. When you’re wearing this I want you to show up and show out. It stems from my LAGOS 54 collection – celebrating the legendary New York nightclub reimagined in Lagos, Nigeria.”
In addition, the theme of rich African culture and sustainability plays out in his catwalk collection. He served us fly and fabulous tweed dresses from existing Chanel clothes that new-age designers like to call deadstock. But this was not dead at all because Soboye turned the handwoven cuts into this ethereal feather-embroidered white dress as his closing item in the collection.
Wrapping up the extensive fashion week is the final catwalk for the people by the people. It celebrates all the individuals who participated and uplifted this event. As Africans, we acknowledge our power is in unity and it is by divine intervention that this year AFWL takes place during Black history month in the UK.
The People’s Catwalk speaks to a memory that is a pride-filled present that will continue into our future.
From Africa to the world
There is much work to do, however, with the continuing intrigue across the globe for the origins of fashion, art, music, and creativity that stems from the African continent, there is no better exhibition that has combined each artistic facet to explore and absorb like AFWL.
As an opportunity to reshape African-global relationships, it allows people from different backgrounds to look into a world of fashion that shouldn’t exist alone. However, AFWL should form a core part of fashion dialogue – its takes on fashion re-establishes the balance between symbols, stories, and different worlds through style.
For more information visit: www.africafashionweeklondonuk.com