Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover

Many people think of Africa as a poor continent that is basically useless for business, however, this is most definitely not the case! Wednesday at FIT, I attended the Luxury African Fashion Panel, which consisted of designers from Africa, Egypt and Bolivia. They took this time to talk about Africa as an emerging market for fashion, luxury African fashion, enterprising fashion brands, and their interpretation of the international “Afrofashionista/isto.”

The panelists answering questions from the audience.

Africa has always been an overlooked market for fashion, and it really hurts African designers. Although international business is weak in Africa, top American and European designers are creating garments based on traditional African prints and designs! In many nations throughout Africa, there are designers, like the ones in the panel, which are extremely gifted, but rarely given the opportunity to expand their businesses.

In 2010, Adiat Disu founded Africa Fashion Week in New York. Since then, many African designers have increased their sales globally which always are set to give back to their hometown. One of the designers stated, “creating a brand is creating a purpose,” and many of these designers said that they use their brand to give back to the less fortunate; whether it’s by creating jobs or as part of a charity.

All of the panelists agreed on the statement that the whole idea behind a brand is to rediscover your roots, and to incorporate your background and culture into what you wear. This gives you a feel of his/her personality but remains at the middle point between African and contemporary. In the past, African women used to focus on how to survive and didn’t have the time to worry about what they looked like. Times have changed and it is now time to give African designers a chance in the marketing world.

Overall, this entire presentation was extraordinary, and I left the room knowing much more about the African market than when I had entered.

Fino alla volta prossima!

Gabriela

 

If you would like to know more about the designers or African Fashion Week in New York, check out:

 

Luxury African Fashion Week Panel

Yesterday was a very special day. For my second class, Advanced Fashion Art Design, we took a little field trip! My whole class, and a couple others, were invited to attend the Luxury African Fashion Panel in the Amphitheater. I filled three whole pages with notes from the panel! Here they are:

What is African Fashion Week?

African Fashion week is a chance for these wonderful African designers to showcase their designs and collections in the spotlight.

Who created African Fashion Week?

A woman named Adiat Disu. She is the President of Adirée and Director for African Fashion Week. She was also the moderator for the Luxury African Fashion Week Panel.

The Panelists Were:

  • Afua Sam, Designer, from Ghana
  • Farai Simoyi, Designer, from Zimbabwe
  • Korto Momolu, Designer, Liberia
  • Francis Hendy, Designer, from the Virgin Islands
  • Mafi, Designer, from Ethiopia
  • MaQuiah B- Mensah, Designer, from Ghana
  • Marianne G.G, Designer, from Egypt
  • Robin Shumays, Designer, African American
  • Nadir Tati, Designer, from Angola
  • Nadine Thompson, Co-Founder, Soul Purpose
  • Renarda Joy, Beauty Specialist and Creative Director, Renarda Joy Company

So let’s start at the beginning.. Shall we? The first topic was:

What does African Fashion Mean?

All of the panelists agreed that African fashion shouldn’t be limited. Francis, a panelist, said that it’s the fusion of African culture with influences from other cultures, too. It’s taking the bold colors and prints and adding more detail to them. He makes his designs for the client because people don’t want the “cliche” of African fashion. He says it’s important to rediscover your roots, then, apply it to your products. The client wants to know YOU. Why are you selling that product to them? What were you inspired by? The clients are curious about the story and the inspiration behind the article of clothing.

Robin, a fairly new designer, loves texture and bold colors. She looks at fashion through her “unique eye”. She loves to integrate prints, also. For example, she once combined silk and denim, creating a unique product. Robin stated, “Luxury can be found where you look for it.”

But what is luxury?

One panelist said that luxury is a combination of many things. The product you produced is indeed luxurious, but there’s more to it. Luxury is how the item is packaged, how it’s presented, how it’s used, the way it’s made. Luxury is taking new forms and shapes and creating new ones, different ones.

“Afrofashionista”: Who is she? What does she look like? How does she style herself?

The term “Afrofashionista”, is used to describe an African woman who loves fashion and style.

MaQuiah, a Panelist, said that “Afrofashionista” is an African woman who incorporates her background and culture, while representing her personality, through her style and clothing.

The “Afrofashionista” is a way of life. It’s a way of living. She is someone who adds flavor to her wardrobe. She takes her style to the streets with confidence.

Renarda, a Panelist, describes the “Afrofashionista” as someone who is beauty driven. She defines her beauty from the inside out. The African prints tell stories from the past, which are still used today. The “Afrofashionista” plays up her make up, and has fun doing it.

How is she perceived?

The newer generation of “Afrofashionistas” are reconstructing old African designs and patters and using them. The newer generation is very natural. African women are starting to expose their natural hair. “They’re more confident and have better self-esteems”, one Panelist said. Their confidence is shown through their natural hair and how they embrace their skin tone.

Some designers, like Burberry, are using African colors.

So, the Panelists were asked, “Is African Fashion a passing trend?”

At once, they all said, “NO!” They said that they will always wear it, they capture and own it. They stated, “It won’t be one if we keep using it.”

Question: “How do you make a brand luxurious but sustainable AND give back?”

“A brand should be both sustainable and luxurious. You need both to be successful”, said one Panelist.

One Panelist produces her clothing in Camaroon instead of China. It creates more jobs for the women, who are so grateful. The designer gives back to her community by creating jobs there.

These African designers also  partake in partnerships and have interns. Adiat uses interns, too. She has them speak to sponsors and go to meeting, they really get involved in the business. “I don’t need my interns to fetch my coffee – I can do that!” Adiat says that she is grooming the next generation, that way they know what to do when it’s their time to step up to the plate. “We write the vision for someone else to read”, states Adiat.

One panelist even gave her interns prom dresses if they maintained above a 3.0 GPA in high school. The girls even got to keep the dresses she designed for them! How nice!

Jason, a member of the audience, stated it’s hard for a man to wear African prints, or to find them. He asked, “Where’s the inspiration for the “Afro-man”?”

Adiat said that there are indeed male African designers. In their campaign for African Fashion Week they did include men. Adiat told Jason to go to Africafashionweek.com to see the designers. Make sure to check it out guys!!

I was so inspired by these Panelists. They are all strong and confident women who deserve to be in the spotlight.

I was going to ask the panelists a question. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. My Question was “How, as a young person, can I help spread this message? What can we, as students, do? How can we get involved?”

So.. this is what I’m going to do.. I’m asking YOU GUYS  to comment and tell me how we can become involved. I want to hear your ideas! How can we participate? What do you think?

I was really inspired by these hard-working designers, I hope you guys are, too!

Your Care Tag,

Bella

P.S. Did you know that it’s $40,000 to rent the smallest tent at Bryant Park for Fashion Week? THAT’S CRAZY!

Designers from African Fashion Week NY Speak to Precollege Students!

Last week, on Wednesday, July 13, Precollege students got the opportunity to meet upcoming African fashion designers whose work is inspired by African themes. FIT’s International Trade and Marketing Programs coordinated the event which aligned with African Fashion Week NY. You may recall hearing about this from Amira’s blog post last week. Miss it? You can check it out here.

Here is a list of the participants and a few shots from the event!

Master of Ceremony: Victoria Adegbola, FIT-ITM major

 

Kiko Romeo

 

Gloria Wavamunno

 

AsakeOge Couture was founded by Asake Agoro from Nigeria. The Label was launched February 2009 at the London Metropolitan Fashion and Dance Charity Show when she was invited to come up with a collection for the fundraiser. A 3rd generation seamstress, growing up around the creative energy in a couture household enabled her to design and make garments for herself from the age of 15. She has honed an innate skill by producing one-off pieces that soon drew international attention.

Asakeoge Couture

Csilla Deri

Adiat Disu