African Fashion Week London part 1

I have found my write up from last year. Let’s hope this year is amazing. I’m already doubtful as they have failed to respond to emails. This doesn’t bode well but, resources….


Surprisingly for all who attended this was the FIRST African Fashion Week in London. Held at Bishops Hall in the City there were two gala shows on the Friday and Saturday. There was definitely a buzz as you approached Bishopsgate. Filled with anticipation people had taken the effort to dress fabulously. Most impressive perhaps is that Nigerian based founder Ronke Ademiluyi managed to achieve this and start a legacy.

DISCLAIMER:  Fashion is a subjective thing and what some may believe to be fantastic others may think is ugly. What must be considered however is that fashion is a fickle beast and to capture the weary audience member any fashion show should be innovative, inspiring and different. Here is where African Fashion Week London failed. Overall the choice in designers suggested that there are relatively few African Designers out there willing to risk participation. A lot of the clothes felt dated and High Street, uninspiring and aside from Mia Nisbet slightly disappointing.

Alidookeh came from Nigeria brought us a collection of cocktail dresses. It was difficult to see the African influence bar a few trimmed hems and neckline details. Perhaps it was the colour choice but the collection felt more Coast than toast of the Gala.

I didn’t detect any African influence in Eva Gryge ‘s collection. It was a bolder and sexier collection with seams bondage sips and lots of geometric lines. I liked the white see through knitted stretch outfits and would have liked to have seen more of her knit wear.

I have never had a favourite designer but Mia Nisbet is my first. Of the outfits there were at least 5 I would wear in a heartbeat including the low backed dirty pink one the designer wore. Recycling or ‘upcycling’ Malawian print and t shirts these outfits were pastels and bold colours combined with an African and sporty girl about town finish. This was definitely the highlight of Friday night’s gala.

After Yaa Ataa traditional bags and the cute but unoriginal Berrys Couture the transparent theme seems to continue with Sve who added a dash of sparkle in her mainly black ball gowns and see through lace numbers. And finally we had Chip Bespoke. More ball gowns the colours were very African sunset with interesting gold stencilling designs. This was the boldest use of colours in the show with peacock blues, orange and pinks dominating.

The show was interspersed with performances . We had Gloria, a young woman singing. Singing a cappella is never easy to do. Singing your own songs a cappella about survival and moving on is even harder to do. A brave attempt? Or should someone have politely put their hand on her shoulder and said “It’s a no”? All that glitters are a performance troupe who combined Gospel South African songs with interpretative dance. I don’t think I got the message. Dwele was a young poet. It was difficult to tell if he was purposefully provoking the audience who were predominantly black but comments about Mugabe didn’t go down well. African Alliance are rappers, one with shades indoors and the mandatory Fergie female singer closed the entertainment portion of the gala.

But as this is the first show I’m sure we have more to come for the future and that the designers chosen next year will dare to be more bold and use stronger African influences without relying on dated concepts.  Well done to all for participating. Right?

© Chelsea Black

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