Dakar Fashion Week in Senegal, one the continent’s oldest fashion exhibitions, revealed stunning looks by designers from across Africa during a runway show on Saturday, June 23.
A total of 35 designers from Senegal, South Africa, Mali, Nigeria, and Guinea Bissau amongst other countries showcased their collections during this year’s fashion week event in Dakar.
This year, South African designers were the talk of the town with their bold and innovative creations.
The continent is raising so that gives us a better chance to tell our stories. And we have been fortunate to be in a country where, you know, as artists we are allowed to focus more on our individualism.
South African duo, Quiteria and George showcased their latest collection, which featured muted tones, with occasional splashes of rainbow colours on sophisticated evening gowns.
“You know I think African fashion is really taking its own turn. The continent is raising so that gives us a better chance to tell our stories. And we have been fortunate to be in a country where, you know, as artists we are allowed to focus more on our individualism and being able to be creatives and telling African stories through clothes,” said George Malelu of Quiteria and George.
South African label Magents also made a splash at the show; presenting their latest collection of mens’ wear with a twist.
Although designers behind the label, Didier De Villiers and Mothei Khomiso stayed true to their signature colourful clothes and sneakers emblazoned with a map of Africa on the sole, their latest collection was also a tribute to women, as models strutted down the catwalk with powerful anti-rape messages emblazoned on their chests.
Under the theme “My Africa” Adama Ndiaye, better known by her brand name Adama Paris, founder of the annual fashion fete said the event represents the best fashion talents from Africa.
Motivated by the lack of African representation in the global fashion scene, Ndiaye said she wanted a place to promote and give exposure to African designers, as well as help African creatives tell their stories.
Ndiaye said she came up with this year’s theme while talking to some girlfriends where the topic turned to representation and what their definition of Africa was.
“For me, ‘My Africa’ is creative. And we went around the table. Each of them was asked what’s your Africa. My Africa is proud. The other said My Africa is bold, the other My Africa is colourful. And in the end what we got were powerful words that were coming out of that and I think there is nothing better than to chant, really to chant and shout out loud what we love so that it can be integrated into this youth, this pride to be African and the pride to evolve in Africa,” Ndiaye said.
As one of the first fashion weeks to launch on the continent, the show has inspired the creation of other fashion weeks and propelled careers of young super models and fashion designers.
For 22-year-old Senegalese-Gabonese model, Jamila Nguizi Diaoune, walking down the runway at Dakar Fashion week was a dream come true.
Her career began when she was 15-years-old and she won a fashion contest in Gabon.
She says growing up her friends used to call her ‘Mannequin’ which means model in French, and she didn’t know what that meant.
Her curiosity pricked so she looked it up and discovered renowned British super model Naomi Campbell.
“It’s not easy for me to be a model in Africa because I have more of a European than African measurements I would say. I am a 34 (size) and it’s not easy for the designers because African designers do big 36 and 38. So I am used to floating in their clothes. And as for modeling in general I would say that of course there is progress, but there is still more progress needed. Because an African model can’t, well, you really can’t say modeling in Africa is a career, there is still a lot that needs to be done. In Europe, once you are there, you fight and that’s it and models are better paid there than in Africa. In Africa, for some catwalks, it’s more like doing charity work than a job,” she said.
The annual event is also an occasion to encourage businesses, giving an opportunity to the fashion community as a whole: photographers, journalists, makeup artists, hair stylists, musicians and to bring fashion back to the people.