This time last week our team was thrusted in to the midst of Africa Fashion Week's positive furore, our third one to date. This is AFWL's fifth year on the scene; showcasing over 300 designers and many exhibitors, the food was lush, the queues were long, with so many amazing textures and prints, wax dyes and shapes we were spoilt for choice. There were live performers and a serious DJ. I finally learned all the words to my favourite Afro Beats tune 'pull over' by Kcee and Wizkid. As I tapped my feet to the funky percussion, the catwalk lit up with a very diverse range and interesting themes. Africa Fashion Week hits many cities across the globe. Cities for this year include Geneva, New York and Amsterdam. So many shows to cover!
Steve Mandy's SMD products and collection grabbed our attention. Steve is from South Africa and uses bleach marking, fabric ink and sun-activated dye. Steve, to our delight, drew directly on the dress during the catwalk show to reflect how his garments have a no fuss, ready-to-wear approach for your walk-in wardrobe. Comfort and every day wear is his trademark. Definitely perfect attire for a chilled day sipping on some Beyerskloof pinotage in Cape Town.
Angolan designer Soraya da Piedade who also has presence in Brazil's collection was made up of elegant pieces, bold prints, layering and striking lengths. There was a lot of detail and emphasis on the shoulders. This oil-rich country will supply a good domestic demand for her designs, Angolans love to shop. Afro Brazilian identity is currently being re-explored and reignited. We would love to know if she has showcased her collections in the predominantly Afro-Brazilian coastal city of Bahia, home to a slightly smaller carnival than Rio and also home to Camdombler spiritual African rituals (which can be traced back to the Yoruba religions of Nigeria).
Mary Martin's frocks were stunning. Mary was honoured last year as best International designer for 2014 she is self-taught and a true autodidact, her trademark fitted gowns with flambouyant chiffon layering have proven popular at her shows in Mayfair, London. She is still studying in this city of innovation and hangs out with the likes of actor Idris Elba and UK TV presenter Reggie Yates. Mary represents Ghana and the UK.
Representing the resource-rich country of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was brand Alisha. Both founders are based in Europe (Brussels and Amsterdam respectively). The Alisha red dress with white doves representing peace was particularly contextual and thought-provoking with its circular collar and ideal length, equally the long black dress embellished with leather and gold reflected the innovation and vibrancy that these two designers are made of. One can't help but get drawn in to the underlying messages in the designs.
Thora Jewels showcased some bright, fun, hand-crafted accessories; using leather, gemstones and crystals all the statement, bespoke designs represented distinct individuality and eye-catching boldness. Thora's online page is very user-friendly for purchases, the Thora Jewels shop is based in Hatton Gardens, the jewellery and luxe watch hub in London.Theodora Dania (Thora's designer and creative director) has a large following in the Nigerian diaspora.
Tangerine designs were very appealing to the colourist's eye, the sorbet hue dresses of varying lengths came with some frills and block panel cutouts which formed some interesting shapes. Based in Abuja and run by Ibee Egbuson, Ibee left a dull 9 - 5 work rut and lacklustre commute four years ago to enter business management and the fashion industry, this brand has gained a reputation for funky, easy to wear and simple designs.
These were just a few designers which caught our eye, there was so much talent in the building (Olympia/Earls Court). The craftsmanship and quality of the showcase on the day was exemplary. The themes and innovation, solid. The Fashion thirst team will do a separate piece on our favourite Kenyan/Swedish based designer Njema Helena because we have fallen in love with her prints and patterns and also because she has a special story and a particular journey to tell.
We'd like to give a special thanks to Caroline Beyll, Sarah Arthman and Tumila for their contributions in addition to our hard-working photographers. There is so much to discover about African style and designs, rapper Fuse ODG has summed it up best (this is the New Africa) TINA. Hashtag # TINA.