Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo – fondly called “The Voice”, was Africa fashion Week London curtain-call performer, as the annual fashion show drew to a close to mixed reviews.
Dakolo was a crowd-pleasing added touch as he rendered his impeccable vocals during men’s designer – Caesar Couture who closed the days eclectic catwalk shows.
The new venue – the iconic Freemasons’ Hall – was home to 37 designers from most parts of Africa and its Diaspora. The show was accompanied by its staple market place which had over 35 exhibitors who turned the listed building into what some of its staff said was “unprecedented” flashes of colour.
But some of those who have followed the growth of AFWL in its 7 year journey, decried that the venue was not made for the big numbers of people who attend the show every year.
“It is rather crammed and dark,” bemoaned one jewelry exhibitor.
“The event is too big for the venue space and there is some disconnect,” added another.
But others including those familiar with and close to the fashion industry, such as top model Noella Musunka, praised AFWL for opting for the new venue: “I love it, the atmosphere is superb here” she says.
And indeed, African fashion lovers turned up in droves – a clear sign that there is need to keep AFWL going to satisfy this ever-growing audience in the European fashion calendar. And whether or not the event returns to Freemasons’ Hall next year, that does not negate the fact that London is hungry for African fashion design talent.
While by and large this year’s event was celebrated as a success, many others felt setting the fashion bar higher to global standards is yet to be achieved.
“Its been 7 years now, and I have been attending the shows every year. We have always talked about African fashion designers having potential, but we need to move beyond potential and produce designs that are to international standards, I am afraid to say, some of the designs showcased still lack that,” said one fashion photographer.
Speaking to the BBC, one of the AFWL organisers – Anna Marie Benedicte however believes the show is getting bette: “ It is absolutely [getting more mainstream]… people come here to get inspiration, they buy the goods from the exhibitors, they come and watch the catwalk – and also, our catwalk is very accessible. Not many people get to see a professional catwalk.. and we make it the catwalk accessible to everybody.”