FabAfriq Magazine

Africa Fashion Week 2011

frica Fashion Week rolled into London for the first of (hopefully) a long line of annual events celebrating African fashion and culture. Held at the decadent Gibson Hall, the event played host to media from all over the planet. This attests to the success of the event, which may have come as a bit of a surprise to the hosts themselves. As problems with over subscription led to not just members of the public but also large groups of media being turned away at the door, a near riot ensued as delegates were told that there wasn't even standing room. This paled in comparison to the chaos which ensued as the public being told that they weren't allowed into the very shows they had paid for. I imagine a rethink on the ticketing process will be necessary to avoid disappointment at future events.  

Seating issues aside, the event was a success by any standards. Members of the press as well as the public seemed to exude genuine enthusiasm, or passion even, for the event. People seemed excited to be there and there was the feel of not just covering yet another event. There was a pride at being part of something new. 

With over 50 designers displaying their creations, the shows had a very haphazard feel to them, with no real theme or link between the designs, save for the fact they were of African origin. This wasn't a massive issue though, as many of the clothes were made from the characteristic "bright colours". That brings me to what I perceived as the real problem with the overall goal of the show. Many of the designs, although well made and relatively interesting, lacked any real adventure and the wow factor, crucial for a brand new fashion show. Speaking to Uche Nnaji, founder of up and coming fashion brand, OUCH, he envisioned taking his brand worldwide and saw a future where African clothing was worn by everyone and not just Africans. If this is the mentality behind the other brands, they will need to show greater versatility and look beyond derivative "mode" designs and take the African influence into previously unexplored realms. 

As an event partly geared for the public, it was definitely a crowd-pleaser, so maybe that's all that matters. All in all, the event was a success, with the media interest sparked before the doors were opened, designers happy with the shows and public appetite whetted. Minor organisational issues aside, Africa Fashion Week seemingly has a bright future ahead of it. Roll on Africa Fashion Week 2012!!!

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