Fashion shows, conferences, debates … Various associations are stepping up to promote African fashion, which has gained visibility in recent years through young designers increasingly present on the catwalks. This phenomenon is now emerging in broad daylight, attracting the attention of the public but also of the big houses and Fashion Weeks, as evidenced by the intense program of this season, from Paris to Milan.
The marathon begins in the City of Light this Friday with an event not to be missed. This is “the first major Parisian event devoted to contemporary African fashion and its haute couture”, announces on its Africa Fashion Up site, the program dedicated to the fashion of Share Africa, a platform for meetings and exchanges founded by Franco-Ivorian model Valérie Ka and entrepreneur Arnaud Ventura to promote young African talents and entrepreneurs.
Africa Fashion Up wishes to “recognize and encourage African fashion in full effervescence, between tradition and modernity, between heritage and international openness” and has launched a competition for this purpose, the winner of which will be designated on September 17, at the Hotel Salomon in Rothschild, in the 8th arrondissement, at the end of a parade presenting the creations of the five winners of the program, namely Zac Koné (Ivory Coast), Guy Fabrice Sullivan (Ivory Coast), Natasha Jaume & Carina Louw (South Africa), Souleymane & Laure Tarot (Senegal) and Emmanuel Okoro (Nigeria).
This event will close two days of meetings between the five stylists with personalities and fashion institutions in Paris. Balenciaga, in particular, a partner in the operation, will welcome them, offering them personalized support for six months as part of a tutoring program. They will also be received in the studio of Cameroonian designer Imane Ayissi, who joined the Haute Couture Week calendar last year, and will meet Sophie Erika, Business and Collection Planning director of Kenzo Mode.
Finally, they will be able to benefit from training delivered by the management school, HEC Paris. At the end of the parade, the winner of this first edition will be decided by five renowned designers from the African continent: Imane Ayissi, the Moroccan Karim Tassi, the Cameroonian Martial Tapolo, Eric Raisina, originally from Madagascar, and Soraya Da Piedade from the ‘Angola.
Also in Paris, on September 18, a conference dedicated to the history and aesthetics of sappers will be held at 5:45 p.m. at the National Institute of Art History. Entitled “The long memory of a popular fashion: the Sape in Europe and the Congo (19th-21st centuries)”, this conference will be held by Manuel Charpy, specialized in the history of material culture and visual culture, within the framework of of the 38th European Heritage Days.
The following week it will be Milan’s turn to shine the spotlight on contemporary African fashion. The event will open on September 22 at 10 am with the collective fashion show broadcast in digital format “We are made in Italy – Black lives matter in Italian Fashion”, unveiling the work of five female talents based in Italy.
The project was launched just a year ago by the Italian-Cameroonian Michelle Francine Ngomno, at the head of the Afro Fashion Association, a non-profit association that she founded in 2015 with Ruth Akutu Maccarthy, of Ghanaian origin. It is sponsored by designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan and supported the Camera Nazionale della Moda (CNMI).
The same day, in the wake, will be held the face-to-face show of Joy Ijeoma Meribe. Originally from Nigeria, the designer founded her ready-to-wear brand with a chic and contemporary style and shimmering colors, in 2017, in Parma. After taking part in the collective show “We are made in Italy – Black lives matter in Italian Fashion” last year, she begins this season solo on the catwalks. Among the other African houses appearing on the Milan calendar, the labels of Nigeria Logos Space Program and Maxivive as well as Maison Alvine Demanou of the eponymous Cameroonian stylist based in Venice will present their digital collection on Monday 27.
In addition, the Fashion Chamber is launching in this edition the project “Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda”, in partnership with the Italian Embassy in Pretoria and the Florentine school Polimoda, allowing four young fashion designers South African Week (Jacques Bam, Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu, Sipho Mbuto and Michael Peter Reid) supported by four former Polimoda students (Domenico Orefice, Ilaria Bellomo, Julian Cerro and Alessia Dovero) to each create a capsule collection presented in Milan, then during Johannesburg Fashion Week.
In parallel with Women’s Fashion Week, the Lombard capital is hosting, from September 23 to 26, the sixth edition of Afro Fashion Week Milano, organized by the Afro Fashion Association. The event is organized around conferences and presentations this season focused on recycling and the problem of used clothing, which is flooding the African continent. Also on the menu are digital presentations and a dozen face-to-face parades.
Six designers based between Italy and Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya, Morocco, Ivory Coast and Vietnam will parade on Saturday September 25, while five others, from Cameroon, will parade the next day, Sunday 26 in the part of the new “Fab Five Bridge Builders International” project, which will highlight BIPOC (acronym for Black and Indigenous People of Color) creativity. To support this initiative, Virgil Abloh has created a special t-shirt with his brand Off-White. The profits from the sale, which will be done on the showroom.afrofashion.org platform, will be donated to the Afro Fashion Association.
Taking over after Milan, Paris Fashion Week will highlight the Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize, who will inaugurate the event with a face-to-face parade on Monday, September 27 at 5.30 p.m.
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