Monday 24 October 2011

African designers influence world trends

Africa's top designers who have spent the past year treating the world to what Africa has to offer the fashion world, meet up in South Africa to showcase their spring and summer collections for 2012.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Johannesburg recently played host to Africa Fashion Week, showcasing the best of African style and featuring the continent's top 30 designers.

The event which ran from Thursday (October 20) to Saturday (October 22) was well attended by some of the most respected fashion critics and enthusiasts, eager to catch a glimpse of the 2012-Spring-Summer collections.

African designs are drawing a cult following globally with the top fashion fraternity picking up on African looks and trends.
But getting African work seen and taken seriously in the fashion world is not easy.

One of the designers who stood out at Africa Fashion Week this year was celebrated Tanzanian designer Mustafa Hassanali, known for his elegant and flamboyant designs, showcased in his Uhuru collection.

Hassanali said the lack of mobility within the region represents a huge challenge to designers desperate to showcase their work beyond borders.

"The challenges in Africa are still the same. Travel within Africa is very expensive, you get me. Just one country to another , restrictions. We have so much of those which the Europeans do not have. You just get on a train, within one hour you are in another country. You can be living in one country, working in another and there is no problem," he said.

Organiser Allana Finley said they hope the event will help showcase not just the artistic side, but promote the economic viability of African fashion.

"You have got strong marketing platform and you have got partners like SA tourism that have partnered with us to force fashion tourism into the minds of the media and the world, so it makes them want to come here, it makes them want to see that there is a lifestyle and fashion platform in Johannesburg that boost interest in these designers," Finley told Reuters in an interview.

Among this year's top designers were South African duo Kluk CGDT.

Fresh from their successful stint at the New York Fashion Week, the pair is known for their flirty designs on silk and satin.

For this year's show, the pair said they wanted to bring home their success from overseas, along with the global attention.

"You know I always say that America, Europe is very saturated and the world is looking for a new frontier and it has to be Africa because that is the undiscovered country. But at the same time also just been to New York doing the Fashion Week, being amongst other fashion designers we were very proud to say we were from South Africa and to know that we on the same level. And what we do in Africa is incredible and is on trend what they are doing overseas we are doing here at the same time. We are not following or copying what they are doing," the pair said.

Many are also hopeful that South Africa's slowly dying textile industry could receive a shot in the arm from a burgeoning fashion market in Africa's largest economy that is looking for home-grown fabric and stitching for its internationally known designers.

The 8th Africa Fashion week brought together the glamour and chaos of countless fashion shows and the hopes of thousands of jobless textile workers.

The textile industry for decades had been a mainstay of Africa's biggest economy until about 20 years ago when cheaper imports from Asia began saturating the market, with factories closing down.

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