The legendary temperamental British weather did not dampen the vibrancy at Africa Fashion Week London 2018, as over 40 designers showcased their eclectic trans- seasonal looks to an equally exuberant audience at Londons’ Freemasons’ Hall in the heart of tourist hub Covent Garden. Here are some of the highlights from the two-day catwalk extravaganza. (All photos By Simon Deiner)
The annual fashion event returned to the fabled venue for the second year on 10 and 11 August, drawing an audience of around 200 people for each of its catwalk shows and another more 1500 to its exhibition stalls, according to its organisers.
In its 8th year, the colourful Africa Fashion Week London has now become a staple on the global fashion calendar and its founder and CEO – Nigerian Ronke Ademiluyi is resolutely steadfast and keen to make the event better and more refined as the years have gone by, and despite the paucity of major sponsorship, a luxury which other fashion events routinely enjoy.
“We are determined to keep Africa Fashion Week London going, because African designers, and lovers of Africa from across the world, as well as creative in the fashion industry including models and photographers, deserve this platform, and so does the European audience, who are delighted that we are bringing something different, and showcasing these amazing creations from Africa and those inspired by it from across the world, right onto their doorstep,” she tells us.
“The amount of excitement this show draws is in the numbers of people who come to AFWL every year. We are always full house and catwalk tickets always sold out, that we have to turn people away because we are so full. The marketplace is a hive – a clear sign of people’s enthusiasm and keenness to buy African fashion pieces – and it is not only Africans who come to our shows, its people from all walks of life. And this why we are now seeing designers inspired by Africa coming to join us from as far afield as Japan and Brazil. It is all an indication that we live in a small global village.
But Ronke and her team are the first to admit that there will always be room to refine the event further. And that calls for major sponsorship. “We will welcome sponsorship partners to come on board to make Africa Fashion Week London an even better event next year. We are grateful that the 2018 show we had the Trade and Investment Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa) sponsor designers to come and showcase South African design talent to European buyers and audience. We need more of such collaborations from other African governments and the private sector,” she stressed.
The Africa Fashion Week London, takes place just weeks to the start of the so-called big four – New York, London, Paris and Milan Fashion weeks – which revel in hype and are drenched with mega sponsors and renown fashion names – some of which are routinely and increasingly leaning to Africa for their creative inspiration.
“If they can be inspired by Africa in their collection surely why can’t big corporate names just support original African content so to speak. Imagine what that would do to events such as AFWL and to the morale of designers and other creative. It would also encourage global buyers to come on board, which would in turn help set up production lines for designers who come to showcase at events such as this – it becomes a win-win scenario, once the cycle of non-sponsorship is broken.,” proffers fashion enthusiast Luella Belle Mangi who says she is impressed with the AFWL story and growth.
“They are getting better each year. I have been there when things have not been so great and they have been down and they have got up again. The change of venue is a big plus, and in my view if they get major support from the private sector and African governments, this show, like what we saw with Black Panther, is a great was of dismantling the stereotypes about Africa. But money in this industry talks volumes, and its amazing how the organisers of AFWL have managed to keep going and still make most of us enthusiast of African talents proud. But AFWL can only get better.” she adds.
This year also saw, in many new faces from the African aesthetics world, with designers from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, USA, Angola South Africa, Senegal, UK, Italy, The Netherlands and many more.
Some of the designers predicatably stood out more than others. For us Onyx By Valentina, can’t get out of heads. The plus-size designer from Nigeria lit up the runway with her vibrant splash of colour, beadwork and embellishments. Her handmade designs, in which she liberally uses Onyx (the black semi-precious stone) exuded luxury.
And so did Senegal’s Sarayaa. Her attention to detail in her tailoring and silhouette deserve being highlighted. The label’s design designer Safietou Seck, says he designs are inspired by former US First lady Michelle Obama. A first timer at AFWL, she said of the event: “I have been to quite a few African fashion weeks, and I must say I am very pleased with my experience here. The organisation backstage and the atmosphere here in the marketplace is simply amazing and I will surely be doing it again,” she tells us.
Also worth a mention is the colour-pop Kachi Blazers – this brand is every man’s must-have wardrobe accessory.
As the catwalk event wrapped up with a special collection called Moremi – the scram for last minute purchases in the exhibition halls clearly sets the AFWL apart – to the extent that one of the Freemasons’ staff would remark “ This is an amazing atmosphere, we have never experienced this in the history of this building. It is superb, something different.”
The Moremi Collection which closed the show, is a tribute to one of Nigeria’s 12th century esteemed Royal figures Queen Moremi, whom AFWL founder Ademiluyi describe as “ a woman who was at the forefront of championing women’s rights in her time.”
The excitement for at this year’s event was palpable to the extent that a call for registration for next year’s Africa Fashion week London is already out. Click here or image for more details.