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Sunday 14th of August 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

Lagos Fashion Week And Africa Fashion Week Nigeria Make A Triumphant Return.

As two Nigerian powerhouses, Lagos Fashion Fair Exhibition and Africa Fashion Week Nigeria join forces to host their events together in September at the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suites on the 7th to the 9th of September, fashion lovers, designers, industry experts, and enthusiasts are in for a special treat.

Ayo Olugbade, CEO of Lagos Fashion Fair, and Princess Ronke Ademiluyi, founder of Africa Fashion Week Nigeria, have joined forces in this historic cooperation to jointly stage their events. This unprecedented collaboration is expected to transform the way that fashion shows are conducted in Nigeria. For their eighth edition, both brands are making a spectacular entrance.

The Lagos Fashion Fair Expo powered by Atlantic Exhibition seeks to provide the ideal platform for fashion enthusiasts to interact with fashion suppliers from throughout the nation.

The Lagos Fashion Fair will bring together fashion suppliers and merchants to develop new avenues of distribution for the industry.

In order to highlight the best of Nigeria’s and Africa’s up-and-coming creative design talent, Africa Fashion Week Nigeria was established as a sister event to Africa Fashion Week London, the largest festival of African fashion in the United Kingdom (UK).

This year’s event promises to be at the forefront of promotion of African indigenous textiles, colors, and design with the sole goal of exposing African creatives on a worldwide platform as African fashion continues to dominate the global fashion landscape.
The LFF and AFWN joint event this year will provide fashion consumers, industry experts, trendsetters, stylists, models, and designers with the opportunity to shop at discounted prices, forge business connections, and build networks with domestic and foreign firms.

Some of Nigeria’s top up-and-coming designers, including AdirestylesNG, Ego by Ego, Fashion by Ashani, HardleySeen,

Nivaldo Thierry from Mozambique, YawsCreations from The Gambia, and Hortense Mbea Afroplan from Ethiopia are among the designers joining us this year on the Pan African catwalk in addition to KaffyKreate, PnJofficial, Dushin Craft, and Max Chidera Official.

Additionally, adire workshops by Adire Oodua Textile Hub and celebrity designer Kunle Afolayan displaying his Kunle Kembe Adire line will be included during the three-day event, which will take place at the Eko Hotel from September 7 to 9.

Exciting attractions that have been thoughtfully packaged for the guests anticipated to congregate in Lagos for this year’s event are lined up to light up the fashion runway and exhibition.

Attendees at this year’s event will enjoy a series of non-stop fashion moments, including a masterclass session by serial entrepreneur Toyin Lawani, who will offer a refreshingly different fashion experience to all fashion lovers and enthusiasts yearning for a breath of fresh air in the Nigerian fashion space. The event also serves as a platform for emerging fashion designers to grow their businesses and connect with a global market.

Content courtesy of Business Day & NFH

Milan Fashion Week Returns in Full Swing With IRL Events

Camera Della Moda officially unveiled the rich schedule for September, which will see 173 appointments, 125 of which to be held in person.

MILAN — “Energy” was a recurrent word during the press conference Italy’s Camera Della Moda president Carlo Capasa hosted on Tuesday to officially present the Milan Fashion Week schedule.

Capasa particularly expressed his satisfaction over the return of physical events, which will account for 125 of the 173 appointments scheduled for show week, which will run from Sept. 21 to 27.

“We’re inverting the trend compared to the last couple of [mainly digital] editions, which is something that gives us a powerful injection of energy in this moment,” said Capasa.

The schedule features 42 IRL shows out of 65 in total. For instance, Roberto Cavalli, under the creative direction of Fausto Puglisi; Moncler, and Boss, the sister collection of Hugo Boss, are returning to the calendar and set to host physical events. For the first time, brands such as MM6 Maison Margiela, HUI, and Vitelli will stage runway shows in Milan.

Prada, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Missoni, Salvatore Ferragamo, Marni, Max Mara, Jil Sander, Alberta Ferretti, Etro, and MSGM are among the established names slated to present their collections in-person, while Emilio Pucci, Dsquared2, Antonio Marras, GCDS, and Philipp Plein are some of the brands sticking to the digital format this season.

As reported, Gucci will head to Los Angeles to present its next collection on Nov. 2, coinciding with the LACMA Art+Film Gala taking place on Nov. 6, for which the fashion house is the founding and presenting sponsor. Yet the brand will host a special event dubbed “Vault” during Milan Fashion Week, the details of which are still under wraps.

Moschino and Bottega Veneta are missing from the Italian schedule as the former will showcase its women’s spring 2022 collection as part of New York Fashion Week, while the latter, after decamping to London and Berlin, will stage a show in Detroit on Oct. 21.

In addition to Gucci, other events on the Milanese calendar will include the “The Way We Are” exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Emporio Armani brand and to be staged at the Armani Silos venue, as well as cocktail parties celebrating the 20th anniversary of Pomellato’s “Nudo” collection, the 50-year career of Chiara Boni and the 60th anniversary of the Marcolin eyewear company.

As for the annual “Green Carpets Fashion Awards,” this year Camera Della Moda will forgo the event that traditionally wrapped the city’s fashion week in September. Having ended the collaboration with Livia Firth and the Eco-Age agency, the Italian fashion chamber will reprise the event next year under the new name, “CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards.” More details will be unveiled on Sept. 22, when the organization will host an event, but Capasa said that the concept will remain the same and continue to acknowledge the work of those who stand out for their application of sustainability principles in fashion.

Shows at Milan Fashion Week will officially kick off on Sept. 22 with the We Are Made in Italy (Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion Collective) digital presentation, offering five new talents who are people of color the chance to display their collections in a video filmed by Antonio Dikele DiStefano, the writer, and filmmaker behind the Netflix series “Zero.”

The Milan schedule will also mark the debut on the official calendar of labels including Colville, Andreadamo, Defiance by Nicola Bacchilega, Roberto Di Stefano, Iuri, Traffico, Radica Studio, and Airin Tribal, among others.

All physical events will be accessible upon the showing of the “Green Pass” as per the Italian government’s decision. The pass enables citizens to enter schools, bars, restaurants, cinemas, and other indoor venues by certifying they have been vaccinated, read negative to a test, or recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months.

Capasa himself strongly appealed to everyone to get vaccinated as “this is the only weapon we have against the virus” and underscored the beneficial effects the vaccination campaign had on the economy since the Italian fashion industry’s sales significantly rebounded in the first half of 2021, registering a 24 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Projections for sales generated by the fashion industry and categories such as jewelry, beauty, and eyewear combined show 20.9 percent growth to 83.1 billion euros in 2021 compared to the 68.8 billion euros in 2020. In 2019, sales generated by those industries were 90.2 billion euros, so the positive projection elaborated by Camera Della Moda would still not mark a return to the pre-COVID-19 level.

“If the Christmas holiday season and relative sales will go well and this projection is confirmed, we would recover 15 billion euros out of the over 22.5 billion euros we lost last year. We wouldn’t make up for all the losses but we aim to recover the rest in 2022, if not even grow next year. I think there’s great attention on Italian fashion right now, and data on our export performance confirm this,” said Capasa.

Exports are expected to increase 24.5 percent to almost 70 billion euros by the end of 2021 compared to the previous year.

In the first five months of the year, exports of Italian fashion goods grew 27.6 percent. Top destinations included Switzerland, France, Germany as well as the U.S., and China, where exports were up 31.9 percent and 93.9 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year.

As for Milan Fashion Week’s attendance, Capasa said that European and American buyers and members of the press are expected, while fashion operators from China won’t be present due to travel limitations.

The international appeal of the event will be boosted by many initiatives Camera Della Moda has included in the schedule.

These comprise the sixth edition of “Budapest Select,” spotlighting four Hungarian brands, and the first effort of the “Fashion Bridges” project it launched with South African institutions and South African Fashion Week earlier this year. Four former students of Polimoda were paired with young designers of the SAFW to develop capsule collections that will be unveiled during Milan Fashion Week, before traveling to Johannesburg Fashion Week at the end of October.

To further support young talents, the seventh edition of Milano Moda Graduate will showcase nine talents hailing from different Italian fashion schools, while emerging brands Amotea, Des Phemmes, Federico Cina, Froy, and Traffico will be promoted at Rinascente as part of the “Milano Fashionable Project” initiative developed by the retailer with Camera Della Moda.

Content courtesy of WWD & Nairobi fashion hub 

 

Founder of Pan-African Clothing Brand ‘BSR’ Advocates for Reverse Brain-drain to Develop Africa

Black Star Revolution, a fashion brand owned by US-based Ghanaian businessman, McAaron Keli Ketor-Tay has been officially launched in Ghana with a call on African leaders to spearhead an agenda to accelerate the continent’s development through reversed brain-drain.

Speaking in an interview with Lord Kweku Sekyi, Mr. Ketor-Tay, said, Africa’s renaissance must be backed by a comprehensive agenda to harness its own human capital to its own advantage rather than exporting scholars abroad.

He said Africa’s unfortunately negligible position in the world economy does not reflect the enormous resources at its disposal which encompass both material and manpower, adding that, foreign nations are rather tapping into African ingenuity at the expense of the continent itself.

Sharing the vision behind BSR, Mr. Ketor-Tay said he was inspired by Ghana’s founder and first president, Kwame Nkrumah, who led Africa’s first successful independence movement in 1957 and actively advocated for continental unity.

He said, akin to Marcus Garvey’s ‘Back-To-Africa’ movement, the Black Star brand signifies unity and harmony among all people of African heritage.

“It will be accomplished through knowledge, enterprise, and direct social impact projects in all African communities globally.”

Mr. Ketor-Tay said plans are underway for his company to venture into the sportswear business, which he will utilise to showcase African talents as well as unique designs to the rest of the world.

Prior to its launch, the Black Star Revolution movement, comprising a team of volunteers, embarked on a number of special charity projects in rural communities in the Greater Accra Region, including refurbishment works at Zenu Polyclinic in the Kpone Katamanso District.

Content courtesy of & Nairobi fashion hub 

Ananse Africa partners Mastercard Foundation, DHL to connect 1,000 African fashion designers, artists to global markets

Ananse Platform Simplifies Global And Local Transactions For African Designers, Artists, And Artisans

Africans are born storytellers, since the time of old. Ananse (/əˈnɑːnsi/) Africa is the meeting place for authentically African, independent brands to tell their stories.

Storytelling in African cultures has been a way of passing down traditions, keeping cultural practices, as well as maintaining a sense of community. The story of Ananse can be traced back to West African folklore from the Ashanti Region of Ghana. An ode to the origin, Ananse Africa is a digital platform for brands to tell their stories through our e-commerce marketplace.

Beautiful things, made by Africa, delivered globally. This is how best to summarize Ananse Africa, a startup eCommerce platform, launched today, in Johannesburg and Lagos, connecting African designers with local and international consumers. The platform showcases the rich and diverse

tapestry of Africa’s creative talent and simplifies international eCommerce payments and logistics for creative entrepreneurs on the continent. Ananse has partnered with the Mastercard Foundation and logistics market leader DHL, to roll out the ‘most comprehensive, pan-African eCommerce platform’ to support creative entrepreneurs like fashion designers and artists to enable them to grow their businesses.

“The Mastercard Foundation partnership with Ananse will enable African fashion brands to sell over 1 million garments over the next three years with 75%   sourced from   African suppliers and 70% participation from women.

This will provide a significant boost to the creative economy sector, ” said Mastercard Foundation Country Head, Nigeria, Chidinma Lawanson.

This valuable business tool will enable artists, fashion designers, artisans, and small businesses along the fashion and art value chains, conduct trade and expand their businesses, leveraging the power of the internet in a cost-effective way.

With countries around the world imposing COVID-19 restrictions on physical retail and international travel, consumers are increasingly switching to online shopping, resulting in a sizeable decrease in the revenues of small businesses like tailors and fashion designers.

“We are not only making it easy for consumers around the world to shop from fashion designers and artists across Africa but also making it straightforward for creatives to manage the payments and logistics functions necessary to complete an eCommerce order,” said the company’s founder Sam Mensah, a Ghanaian ex-Silicon Valley executive and fashion entrepreneur.

Ananse’s eCommerce and POS solutions are simplifying trading in both the physical and digital worlds for creative entrepreneurs in Africa. Ananse provides creative merchants with full support, including production training, quality assurance, online payments, order processing, and packaging.

The technology solution aims to solve the key problems that prevent African fashion designers, artisans, and artists from being commercially viable and successful.

Speaking at the Ananse launch, Leendert van Delft, DHL Vice-President for Global eCommerce spoke of the company’s experience as the fashion retail and art industry’s leading global logistics partner. “For decades, we have pioneered solutions to meet the needs of artists, designers, retailers, and customers by making it our mission to provide these businesses with exceptional service that translates to a competitive edge.

Through our collaboration with Ananse, we are delighted to offer fast and efficient international logistics solutions that have proven critical to countless startups over the years,” said van Delft. Furthermore, Ananse announced that it has also formed a strategic media partnership with Trace TV to promote the work of African fashion designers, artists, and artisans to its millions of viewers globally.

Curated content on ananse.com will enable shoppers to explore, get inspired, and enjoy the work of African fashion designers and artists in an engaging manner.

Content courtesy of Van Guard & Nairobi fashion hub 

 

With Traditional Fabrics, Nigerian Designers Fashion a New Aesthetic

Weaving contemporary designs into a traditional West African fabric, Nigerian Tsemaye Binitie is creating fashion he hopes can also bridge the gap between luxury and the everyday.

His material of choice is Aso-oke, a hand-woven cloth indigenous to the Yoruba people and historically used on special occasions.

Binitie, who cut his teeth as a design assistant with Stella McCartney in 2005, began using the fabric in 2017, and he infuses the yellow dresses that are his signature creations with cotton and silks to give them a post-modern feel.

“We started to use contemporary African art and culture within the threads of the collection so you see hints of it or very … obvious (signs),” said Binitie, who divides his time between Lagos and London.

“It’s sort of informed fabric, informed color, informed styling.”

Priced at between $300 and $4,000, his TB12 custom collection features Aso-oke – which means “top cloth” in Yoruba – in seven different shades.

“We are sort of preserving the culture, you know, that we’ve watched all our lives in front of us … and teaching the younger generation that it is something to be proud of, something to want to wear,” he told Reuters.

Fellow Lagos designer Lisa Folawiyo specializes in a different traditional cloth, the West African wax prints known as Ankara, and her hybrid collection, called Batkara, incorporates Batik designs embellished with needle-work beadings and sequin trimmings. “We have merged what is indigenous to us with what is familiar in the West and we’ve made it ours,” she said.

That same synthesis informs the aesthetic of Alara, a Lagos store dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion for the Nigerian and the diaspora markets. Its Head of Partnerships, Arinola Fagbemi, says more and more people are thinking about African luxury “in terms of how we live on a day-to-day basis … not just for celebratory moments.”

Content courtesy of Malaya Business Insight & Nairobi fashion hub 

Rising label LABRUM Weaves Untold Stories of West Africa into its Clothing

Community-focused designer Foday Dumbaya is bridging the gap between Britain and West Africa with his culture-blurring collections

Foday Dumbaya first became aware of fashion at an early age. “In Sierra Leone, when I was young, my dad was in the police force and always dressed immaculately. He had this great authoritarian military uniform,” the East London-based designer, who was raised between Sierra Leone, Cyprus, and London reveal.

“My mother loves to dress well too. She’s more extravagant and to this day wears traditional African dress coordinating colors, a headscarf, it’s a whole look,” he adds. When it came to his parents actually allowing him to go into fashion, however, things got a whole lot more tricky. “It wasn’t always on the table in my African home. My parents were determined I chose a more stable career – as immigrants themselves, they recognized we faced an uphill battle as it was.”

Instead of heading to fashion school, Dumbaya studied information design at university, going deep into the ways in which humans interact with computer interfaces. After an internship at tech powerhouse Siemens, he dipped his toe into fashion for the first time at Nike, where he created bespoke designs for the sportswear giant. “I’m largely self-taught but fashion isn’t so different (from information design),” he says. “I create stories within a fashion that humans respond to.” After his stint at Nike, he laid the foundations for his own label, LABRUM, with the intention of exploring both West African and British heritage, and bridging the gap between the two.

Past collections have seen Dumbaya look to Sierra Leonean capital Freetown, his grandmother, and the West African diaspora for inspiration, with classically tailored suits, clean indigo denim, and slick, functional sportswear-indebted pieces sitting alongside his own takes on the agbada and other traditional silhouettes. “A lot of our pieces are an amalgamation of cultures,” he explains. “We have British tailoring in the shirt, with the addition of ruffle sleeves, which is more traditionally West African attire.”

More recently, as part of his AW21 collection at London Fashion Week, LABRUM paid tribute to “the heroes of St. Giles Blackbirds” – a community of sailors, soldiers, and former slaves that came to England from Africa in the late 1700s and ended up living in poverty, shunned by society. “We wanted to tell the story of a group of people that were downtrodden and went against the efforts made to forget them,” Dumbaya explains. “It was important that we told it now because it’s a story of resilience and migration, which feels very poignant right now.”

Inspired by the stories of figures including writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, who came to the UK after buying his freedom and fought for the abolishment of slavery, Dumbaya reworked and reimagined historic dress for 2021, enlisting Dazed editor-in-chief and longtime collaborator Ib Kamara to bring the offering to life on the runway. This saw trenches with dramatic ruffled panels matched with louche, wide-legged trousers, structured coats layered over tailored, printed suits, and new iterations of his signature balloon-sleeved Mamie Bakie shirt – named after his grandmother – all on the line-up for the new season, with 80 percent of the offering crafted from offcuts and salvaged fabric.

For Dumbaya, it’s not just about the clothes, though fostering and supporting a sense of community, as well as empowering a new generation of creatives, is high on the agenda, too. Having long worked with Hackney’s Wickers Charity, which supports and uplifts disadvantaged youths in Hackney, he also founded Sierra Leone running club Labrum Athletic. In addition to donating funds and equipment to the group, he also stepped in to create the Sierra Leone Olympics kit when some of the club’s members were chosen to represent the country in the postponed 2020 games.

Working in partnership with Converse, the designer is also attempting to open up the fashion industry to a wider, more diverse demographic. Having first linked up for a creative project and collaborative runway footwear, Dumbaya’s relationship with the legendary label has evolved into something a lot more expansive. As part of Converse’s All-Star program, LABRUM has been able to access mentorship and funding that has allowed Dumbaya to grow its brand and community significantly.

With many brands – both emerging and, more dismally, established relying on low or unpaid interns to support their businesses, those from lower economies have historically been locked out of fashion. In a bid to combat this, Converse has begun funding paid placements with its All-Star designers – allowing growing businesses to thrive and young talent who otherwise might not have been able to get their foot in the door to gain experience, knowledge, and guidance.

Ahead of the AW21 season, LABRUM was one of the labels that benefit from the initiative, with a number of interns and a studio manager joining its fold.

“(The interns) were an incredible support,” says Dumbaya. “Each of them brings different experiences and energy to the team, and I really valued their input. We’re developing a platform where there is knowledge sharing between West Africa and the West – and especially London. We want the people interning to share their knowledge too.”

With Dumbaya intent on telling new stories and merging the borders of West Africa and Britain as the label grows, he’s determined to also keep the door open for the creative new gen. ”Nurturing talent is so important to me. LABRUM will continue to create and support communities linking back to Sierra Leone and London, as this is so much more important than simply designing clothes. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we all need to think about each other more.”

Content courtesy of Dazed Digital & Nairobi fashion hub 

The Folklore website is elevating African fashion and helping designers get paid

“This is going to change the way people value Africa and its creators,” says Amira Rasool, founder of The Folklore, which sells clothing and accessories from prominent and emerging African brands.

Amira Rasool is the founder and CEO of The Folklore, an online concept store featuring contemporary African design. She spoke to Doreen Lorenzo for “Designing Women“, a series of interviews with brilliant women in the design industry.

Doreen Lorenzo: How did you first find your way into design?

Amira Rasool: I was a creative kid. I used to make these huge forts out of sheets all around the house. I actually used to want to be an architect. Then I failed algebra my freshman year of high school. I figured if I was going to be an architect, math would be something I needed to be somewhat good at so people weren’t walking into their homes and sliding to the right because I measured wrong.

I thought, “what’s something creative that doesn’t have to do with math or science?” I started thinking more about interior design because my dream was always to build a community of really cool houses that all look different.

I also always had on these funky outfits, so my older sister Jasmine told me: “Why don’t you just get into fashion? You watch The Devil Wears Prada all the time. You’re always getting dressed up. You like writing.” She suggested that I start a blog back in 2010 when blogging was really big. So I created a blog and an alter ego named Bobby Austin posting outfits of me wearing purple wigs and black lipstick.

 

I also started taking FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) pre-college courses, so all my friends were just as weird as me and also had wigs on. I grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, about 40 minutes outside of New York, so I would take the train on the weekends, do my college courses, then go hang out with my friends afterward. I was one of those weird creative kids that were also a great athlete and could fit into both worlds.

Doreen Lorenzo: What made you decide to go from creative fashion blogger to entrepreneur and founder of The Folklore?

Amira Rasool: The blog is what let me know that my passion was in writing. I started doing internships as soon as I got into college floating between interning for fashion market editors, stylists, and features editors. I interned at Women’s Wear Daily and I really loved that experience. From there, I went to Marie Claire, which was really eye-opening for me because I was given a lot of responsibility.

It made me understand how hectic magazines were and learn how to take charge without anyone telling me to. I realized I was super good at organizing and providing top-quality results. My boss from Marie Claire then referred me to V Magazine where I interned in their fashion department, and later their editorial department.

During my internships, I made really good connections with the people I worked for. They saw I was a hard worker. By the time I graduated, I had multiple magazine jobs that I was up for. People in media know it’s so hard to get that entry-level job when you’re coming out of college. The fact that I had my choice between jobs was a testament to me busting my butt and always being reliable. I ultimately ended up choosing V Magazine where I worked full time for a year as their fashion coordinator before I decided to start The Folklore.

Doreen Lorenzo: What made you decide to branch out and start The Folklore?

Amira Rasool: When I was majoring in journalism at Rutgers, I started taking a bunch of African American studies courses. By the end of my junior year, I had more African American studies courses under my belt than I did journalism. I decided to change my major to African American studies. Growing up they did not do a good job teaching us about Black history outside of Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and the few other Black people they let us learn about. So when I started taking those African American studies courses and started learning about so many inspiring people, I was shocked.

I became obsessed with Black literature and started reading James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, and a lot of the people who came from the Harlem Renaissance. I learned how the creatives during the time we’re able to create these great publications like Fire!! that was a part of activism, but more creative activism. I related to that because I felt like I was put on this earth to uplift my people in some powerful way. I had this fire under me to go out and make an impact within the Black community.

Fashion is very whitewashed. I’ve always been the only Black girl in every meeting and every company I go to, and they weren’t having conversations about race like they are now. I started feeling like fashion was so vain. People thought that they were curing cancer with what they were doing, but they weren’t even going beyond surface-level conversations. I liked fashion and felt I shouldn’t have to give up what I love because I want to pursue something that’s a little bit more serious and impactful. How could I do both? That’s when I started thinking about Africa.

I had taken a trip there my senior year of college and fell in love. I went to South Africa and discovered all of these cool designers, creatives, and music. I bought a bunch of clothing and accessories when I was there and started wearing them when I came back to the United States and people were stopping me and asking: “Where did you get those sandals from? Where did you get this hat from?”

I started thinking about getting access to these products again, but most of them did not have e-commerce sites and weren’t sold at retailers outside of Africa. I didn’t have access to them unless I hopped back on the plane. That’s when I came up with the idea. Why is there a whole continent full of designers that cannot penetrate the international market, and how can I help them do that? How can I use my resources, network, and overall creativity to find a way for them to have access?

I started creating a business plan and applied to the University of Cape Town for a master’s degree in African studies. Once I got in, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa, and lived there for two years learning about the designers and what they needed from an e-commerce platform. At the same time, I got to learn about various African cultures.

That informed how I thought about communicating these designers’ stories. Halfway through my program I ended coming back to the U.S. to launch The Folklore site.

Doreen Lorenzo: How did you find these African designers and fashion styles you wanted to represent through The Folklore?

Amira Rasool: There’ve always been so many different stereotypes of Africa. There’s definitely poverty in Africa, but at the end of the day, that’s not only Africa, and Africa is not the only place with widespread poverty. For a whole continent to be defined by that is ridiculous. I wanted to be able to reflect that and show this whole renaissance happening with designers incorporating their heritage into modern and contemporary forms of expression.

Being on the continent was really important because I was able to touch and feel the fabrics and most importantly, connect with the designers. I knew I wanted to stay away from Ankara prints or anything traditional because I wanted everyone to be able to wear these pieces.

I wasn’t going to be the American that came in and started selling white people Ankara prints, advocating for cultural appropriation. I also did not want to be a cultural appropriator myself, so I purposely go after pieces that can be worn comfortably by anyone.

There was already a market that catered to Black people who wanted to feel connected to the continent and their cultural heritage. I wanted to provide that counter-narrative where someone could see a piece and not know where it was created. People universally can wear these products and we know the only reason why these designs are as unique as they are is because of these designers combining their heritage, culture, and their natural environment in Africa that’s not typically portrayed.

When you don’t know that this place exists, everything’s going to look new and unique to the outside person. I’m excited to be the person to help the designers introduce this counter-narrative and share their unique stories outside of Africa.

Doreen Lorenzo: The Folklore became a 2021 Techstars accelerator company. What does this mean to you and for the future of The Folklore?

Amira Rasool: It means a lot.

The network, resources, and overall knowledge Techstars provides are extremely beneficial. I like to think that when The Folklore got into TechStars all of our brands got Techstars. Whatever knowledge or resources we absorb during the program, we are going to make sure we share with our brands.

One of Techstars’ mission statements is “Give first” and everyone who I’ve encountered at Techstars has really embraced that mission. So much of the focus is on how to help you raise money and build a profitable company. That’s a great thing because they realize what it takes to build a great company. Everyone’s been super supportive, so I’m really excited and honored to be a part of it.

Doreen Lorenzo: How do you believe Folklore will change the way people view the fashion industry in Africa?

Amira Rasool: This is going to change the way people value Africa and its creators.

The value that was placed on African designers before was the number of clicks their creativity could generate for fashion publications featuring African brand look books. They didn’t care that the press these brands were getting did not convert to dollars because a lot of the brands did not have a website to link back to. It was an afterthought.

We created a dialogue around economic opportunity and put pressure on the industry to actually put their money where their mouth is. Now they can write about these brands and link them back to The Folklore. We want to put as much value on these designers as people put on Gucci or Alexander McQueen, and honestly, there’s more value in these goods because most of them are unique and sustainably made.

People pay luxury prices because they were told these brands are important. When we’re pricing our goods, it’s really because it costs a lot of money to ship these products from Africa to the U.S. The e-commerce infrastructure has been set up, whether consciously or not, to exclude people like us.

If you’re truly committed to diversifying the designers that you work with and fighting for equity and inclusion, you have to make compromises that you would have otherwise not made for more established brands. When you’re paying for a product from our website, you’re buying something because it is amazing. People have asked to donate to my company but no, you can invest in my company, our brands, and their products. We don’t want charity.

Nobody wants charity. I want to change the way that people talk about contributing to Africa and help people recognize the value in not only how these products are produced, but in the story and the exclusivity behind them.

Written By Doreen Lorenzo

Content courtesy of Fast Company & Nairobi fashion hub 

Socialite Mollie Moon Used Fashion Shows to Fund the Civil Rights Movement

In the 1950s, famed Harlem socialite Mollie Moon transformed the Ebony Fashion Fair into a powerhouse fundraiser for Civil Rights activities. When she did so, she took part in a long tradition of fashion shows fundraising for Black political causes.

The glamorous Mollie Moon sauntered around the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan’s famed Waldorf Astoria hotel as she made minor adjustments to the decor. It was October 4, 1959. Moon, the founder and president of the National Urban League Guild, was preparing to bring the Ebony Fashion Fair to New York for its Big Apple premiere.

A mother and daughter at an Ebony Fashion Fair in Denver, Colorado, 1978. KENN BISIOGETTY IMAGES

A pharmacist by training and a veteran fundraiser, Moon paid meticulous attention to every detail of the events she hosted, because she believed guests could feel her level of care. The Waldorf, with its Art Deco luxury, had hosted European monarchs, diplomats, and New York’s white upper crust. Why should the Black American guests Moon was hosting on this evening expect anything less than the royal treatment?

Moon, wife of the former NAACP public relations director, Henry Lee Moon, understood that Black Americans were generous givers who loved to dress up for a good cause. Give them an opportunity to show out and the money would show up! Ticket prices for the fair ranged from $3.50 to $12 (roughly $25 to $100 today) and came with a subscription to either Ebony or Jet magazine.

Proceeds from the NYC show would go to the National Urban League, the interracial civil rights organization Moon’s guild supported through savvy fundraising campaigns and volunteer work. In cities from Washington, D.C., to Peoria, Illinois, powerbrokers like Moon hosted Ebony Fashion Fair events to fund local nonprofit organizations, racial justice causes, and HBCU scholarships.

The idea for the Fashion Fair originated in New Orleans in 1956. Jessie Covington Dent, an accomplished pianist, a socialite, and the wife of Dillard University president Albert W. Dent, reached out to media mogul John H. Johnson of Johnson Publishing about cohosting a fashion show fundraiser for Flint-Goodridge Hospital.

That first show was such a success that Johnson and his wife, the fashionable and cosmopolitan Eunice Johnson, decided they should make it an annual touring fundraiser. Ripping “Fashion Fair” straight from Ebony magazine’s monthly column of the same name, Ebony Fashion Fair took shape under the leadership of Johnson Publishing’s home services director, Freda DeKnight. The rebranded traveling fashion extravaganza launched in 1958 with the theme Ebony Fashion Fair Around the Clock, featuring the wares of American and European designers, a few models, lively music, elaborate stage props, and colorful commentary by DeKnight.

Give them an opportunity to show out and the money would show up

Ebony Fashion Fair was the perfect fundraiser. “It was ready-made,” Joy Bivins, curator of “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” explains. “For the organizations, they don’t really have to do anything but bring the show. It’s a package deal.”

And for the attendees, the shows created an opportunity to “get together and do what rich people do with each other: show off! But it had this philanthropic aspect to it that, in many ways, made it okay,” Bivins says. The shows also gave exposure and brought new clientele to Black ready-to-wear designers and milliners who were struggling to launch their careers due to Jim Crow racism and cronyism in the mainstream fashion world.

A model at the Ebony Fashion Fair in Denver, 1979
DENVER POSTGETTY IMAGES

By the time Moon brought the event to NYC in 1959, it was among the hottest Black social events in the country. That year with an Around the World theme the tour expanded to 51 cities in 31 states. Moon supervised as DeKnight and the Fashion Fair team transformed the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom into a Black traveler’s paradise, replete with stage props that included hat boxes and luggage with the names of European destination cities fancifully written on them.

Press coverage that ran in the Amsterdam News and the New York Age played up the exclusive nature of the event, dubbing the two-hour show a “one night only affair.” It was a massive show that featured 200 garments and more than 400 accessories personally selected by DeKnight.

The models swayed and sashayed across the stage in haute couture garments by Arthur Jablow, Martier Raymond, Maggy Rouff, Harry Young , and others. With more than 3,000 people in attendance, the standing-room-only event was a roaring triumph. It further cemented Moon’s status as the grande dame of Black social and civic life in New York City.

Models at the Ebony Fashion Fair, Denver, Colorado, 1979
DENVER POSTGETTY IMAGES

Fashion show fundraisers like the Ebony Fashion Fair were ubiquitous in the Black community during World War II and well into the Black Power movement era. The Fashion Fair reflected the Johnsons’ particular brand of Black cultural elitism, evident in the mink stoles, silk chiffon dresses, hand-beaded gowns, and dripping diamonds that were on display during the shows.

But any crowd, regardless of income, taste level, or political leanings, could find a fashion show that catered to their interests and supported causes they could throw their hard-earned money behind. Designer to the stars Zelda Wynn Valdes directed a show for Harlem’s Salvation Army, much to the delight of the neighborhood’s elderly and infirm population.

The Black Nationalist organization African Jazz-Art Society & Studios toured its Naturally fashion show down the Eastern Seaboard and through the Midwest. Naturally’s Afro-sporting Grandassa Models wore African-inspired dresses and pantsuits, which they had designed and sewn themselves. Other community shows featured local folks from maids to transit and postal workers who modeled clothes from their closets. Styling out in garments of their own choosing affirmed that they were much more than uniform-wearing laborers. Churches, youth groups, sororities, and fraternities all found a sense of Black pride and Black economic self-help through fashion shows.

A model at an Ebony Fashion Fair sponsored by the Links in 2004
HELEN H. RICHARDSONGETTY IMAGES

Any crowd, regardless of income…could find a fashion show that catered to their interests

Moon and her contemporaries demonstrate how Black women have defined and redefined the contours of American philanthropy. “The biggest misconception is that Black women don’t give and that they’re not involved in philanthropy,” says Tyrone Freeman, author of Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving and assistant professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“The truth is, Black women are on the leading edge of generosity in their community.” Philanthropy for Black Americans has never been the province of the rich or even of the middle class. Black, community-based giving circles and mutual aid societies can be traced to the Caribbean and West Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries, Freeman explains. Enslaved and free Black women’s philanthropic efforts helped to fund the abolitionist movement, the Black Freedom movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Black Lives Matter movement today.

Studies have also shown that Black Americans give a larger percentage of their disposable incomes to nonprofits than other races. Thus, giving was foundational to Black life long before exorbitantly wealthy white capitalists became the face of modern philanthropy.

A model at the Ebony Fashion Fair, Denver, Colorado, 1979
DENVER POSTGETTY IMAGES

Reflecting in 1982 on her career as a philanthropist and lifelong civic leader, Moon wrote, “Neither I nor my family had sufficient income to make significant financial contributions to this cause [Black Freedom]. We did, however, have commitment, energy and time to contribute.” Bake sales, chicken dinners, galas, card parties, dance-a-thons: All those fundraising events helmed by Black women who were not generationally wealthywere their chance at Black world making.

A model at the Ebony Fashion Fair, Denver, Colorado, 1979
KENN BISIOGETTY IMAGES

Black women were giving and raising money to create the world they wanted to live in. Ebony Fashion Fair was a vehicle through which they could perform this women-centered freedom dreaming. The Fashion Fair ran annually through 2009, raising nearly $60 million in its 51-year run. Moon and countless others whose names have been lost to history were the visionaries who kept the touring show in circulation.

At the time of her death in 1990, Jet reported that Moon had raised more than $3 million through the National Urban League Guild, which, under her leadership since 1942, had grown to nearly 30,000 volunteers in 80 guilds nationwide.

Content courtesy of Harpers Bazaar & Nairobi fashion hub

5 Africa Fashion Designers open Digital Milan Fashion Week

MILAN – Five designers of African origin making their runway debuts opened Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday under the banner “We are Made in Italy,” having nurtured dreams deemed fanciful in their native countries and which faced considerable obstacles coming to fruition in their adopted Italy.

Joy Meribe, who is originally from Nigeria, started out working in Italy as a cultural mediator. Fabiola Manirakiza came to Italy as a child from Burundi and first trained as a doctor.

Morocco-born Karim Daoudi grew up in a shoe-making town in northern Italy and eventually took up the local craft. Pape Macodou Fall arrived from Senegal at age 22, applying his creative streak as an actor, film producer, figurative painter and now, as a designer of up-cycled garments.

Just one of the five, Cameroonian Gisele Claudia Ntsama, set her sights on Italy with the singular, already mature goal of a fashion career.

“When I told friends in Cameroon that I wanted to travel to Italy to become a fashion designer, they said, ‘Why are you going to study fashion. You know you are Black? What Italian fashion house is going to hire you?’” Ntsama said in a video chat with The Associated Press. “It is always in people’s minds that fashion is for white people. No and no and no!”

The designers, dubbed “the Fab Five,” are the first crop of creators nurtured through a collaboration between the National Chamber of Italian Fashion and the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion movement. Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean, Milan-based African American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milano founder Michelle Ngonmo launched the movement last summer..

The collaboration has expanded from September, when the Fab Five’s collections hung in a showroom, to a bona fide runway show of five looks each for Milan Fashion Week, which is taking place 99% online.

For their fall-winter 2020-21 collections, the designers worked alongside suppliers and received mentoring from experts, all organized by the Italian fashion council, in an enhanced partnership that allowed them to take their creations to the next level.

A multi-ethnic team of stylists, hairdressers and makeup artists were on hand to prep for the runway show, and buyers can visit the collection on the National Chamber of Italian Fashion website.

Meribe worked with silk from the Como-based textile company Taroni, revisiting some of her earlier designs for her Modaf Designs brand that she has traditionally made from cotton renderings of traditional African wax textiles. Buchanan helped with fitting and encouraged Meribe to change ideas at the last minute without being too rigid,’ she said.’

“This collection is the most luxurious I have ever created. For this capsule collection, I went beyond every possibility,’’ Meribe said.

Daoudi worked with Veneto shoemaker Ballin, which produces footwear for Bottega Veneta, Chanel and Hermes, to create his collection of high heel sandals and boots. He said the association helped him produce more challenging designs.

“I hope that there are buyers,’’ he said, adding that the producer plans to help him fill any orders he receives.

Ntsama added knitwear to her distinctive swirling creations from hemp textiles. The artisanal looks are one-of-a-kind pieces fit for the celebrity red carpet and require hours of handcraftsmanship: She shapes the hemp with a kitchen utensil she prefers not to identify and irons it into place.

Fall, whose nom de artiste is Mokodu, took existing garments and upcycled them with hand-painted African-inspired images.

Manirakiza, whose Frida Kiza brand already has a following in the Marche region of Italy where she lives and in Rome, needed no outside financing for her collection inspired by Botticelli’s “Primavera,” which she intended as a sign of hope after the pandemic.

A babydoll dress with a gathered neckline and cape details is crafted from a black and white print of “Primavera” that emphasized the masterpiece’s floral elements. Manirakiza said staging a runway show was “a wonderful experience” that she hopes will help expand her brand.

Ngonmo established Afro Fashion Week Milano on her own after failing to get the attention of the industry before the Black Lives Matter movement inspired Black Italian creatives to draw attention to the limits they face. She said it was particularly important that the fashion world didn’t just stop with slotting the names of African-born designers into the fashion calendar, but gave them material support to grow.

“This has to have deeper roots. If we want to have true change, we need to offer the same opportunities that their colleagues have had, give them the same instruments and experiences,’’ Ngonmo said. “Let’s say this is a good first step.”

Content courtesy KSAT & Nairobi fashion hub

Labrum London Autumn/Winter 2021 at London Fashion Week

Not long ago, Menswear brand Labrum London launched their 2021 autumn-winter collection named St. Giles Blackbirds. The collection pays tribute to the black community that settled in London’s St. Giles area, which was full of soldiers, sailors, and former slaves.

The inspiration for the collection is Olaudah Equiano, a man who fought to abolish slavery. The collection itself utilised traditional West African fashion. For instance, the trench coat was a tribute to Equiano’s style. Moreover, the collection displayed loose-fitting tailored garments with voluminous statement ruffles with blue, beige and a pop of bright yellows.

Labrum London continued to be aware of the production wastage by having 70% of their collection made up of deadstock fabric and factory surplus from the previous seasons. They used durable materials to expand the longevity of their garments.

The accessories were made up of 80% upcycled materials.

Labrum dedicates this season to the heroes of ‘St Giles Blackbirds’. Celebrating a section of the black community comprising of; sailors, soldiers and former slaves that settled in England in the late 1700’s and soon found themselves poor, dispossessed and living within the St Giles in the Fields area of London.

Dubbed the ‘black poor’ they were dispassionately transported Sierra Leone following difficulty finding the solace that London once promised.

The group are symbolic of a familiar history and repeated tale: black people who are discarded as soon as they no longer prove useful. Today, the St Giles Blackbirds, defying the attempts of silence and being cast away, are highlighted by Labrum. Their story depicted as one of migration and great resilience.

Special thanks to; The blackbirds of St Giles Lesley Goddard at St Giles in the Fields Converse Creative Direction: Foday Dumbuya JulianKnxx
Art Direction & Styling: Ib Kamara Musicians: Anaiis Kwaye Sheila Maurice-Grey Ayo Salawu Jonathan Moko Godwin Sonzi Renato Paris
MUA: Riona O’Sullivan
MUA Assistants: Hiromi Iizuka Chiharu Wakabayashi
Hair Stylist: Shanice Noel
Hair Assistant s: Franklyn Nnamdi-Okwedy Nat Bury Muriel Cole Carl Murray Danielle Igor

Content courtesy of Our Culture & Nairobi fashion hub 

 

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