About a week ago, the lovely guys at Comic Relief invited myself and some fellow bloggers to Africa Fashion Week as part of their 'See Africa Differently' campaign. The campaign is fairly unique in that the aim isn't to communicate the famine and poverty across the continent but rather to highlight a different side to Africa: the arts, theatre, music, trade and investment. This really resonates with me, my mum is from Kenya and the stories I've heard about her childhood and adolescence are of beautiful cities and beaches with rich colours and culture...and the tastiest mangos on the planet! The memories she has are completely at odds with the war-torn, impoverished continent I see on the telly and in magazines. It's difficult to put those two images of Africa side-by-side when the media shows images which give us such negative connotations of the continent which are hard to shake.
Africa has, of course, inspired both designers and collections. Burberry Prorsum's resort 2012 collection is littered with references, from the ankara fabric to the bold colours. It's a pity they denied that any inspiration came from Africa. I think it's plain to see where the inspiration for the collection came from. It's such a shame that, for whatever reason, Burberry was hesitant to disclose it's source of inspiration. Perhaps it's due to the negative connotations about Africa, hopefully once you've seen what I've seen you will be more open to African fashion.
I went along with no preconceived idea about what to expect which I think is the best way to approach something like this. I walked away a few hours later blown away and so inspired by what I'd seen. There were so many outstanding collections and pieces, so this will be a very image heavy post. I hope this post changes your perception of Africa and shows a glimpse of what lies beneath the images of famine and disease that we see in the media. Beyond the stunning designs, I felt like I saw part of the real Africa - culturally rich and brimming with talent. Fashion is only one facet of this campaign, if you're interested in hearing more, please check out the See Africa Differently website and the Twitter and Facebook pages.
Ann Rose - My two stand out pieces are real head turners, aren't they? The dress is stunning. The pleating, ruching and body-con shape are very much in line with what party dresses on the high street look like, while the side train gives a unique twist and an edgy alternative to dipped-hem dresses which are everywhere at the moment. The print of the second piece really stood out to me, the simple shape showed it off to perfection.
Ozora - Ozora's collection was also very, very glam. The rich purples and golds looked so sumptuous, such a regal colour combination. The billowing shapes reminded me of Jena Theo's signature cut, this was a very good thing as they are one of my favourite collections of London Fashion Week. The exquisite gold printed dress with the purple sash was my absolute favourite.
Adopted Culture - This was one of the most colourful and fun collections of the day, more African-inspired than some of the other collections but still very contemporary and covetable. How amazing are the headpieces?
Adaora's - Oh the beauty and drama of this collection. Let me tell you, there were audible gasps from the packed room when some of the pieces came out onto the catwalk. This collection really reminded me of Corrie Nielsen's autumn/winter 2011 collection, with it's Victorian references, voluminous shapes and sheer drama. The red and gold coat is my stand out piece.
Maze Couture - The devil was in the detail for this collection, I was captivated by the intricate embroidery and beading.
JB Afrique - The collection was so young and playful, displaying the perfect fusion of African prints and contemporary evening wear. I love the peplum detailing, candy colours and sheer panelling. As you can tell from the images, the pieces moved so beautifully down the catwalk, the wisps of sheer fabric delicately fluttering in the model's wake.
J by Jak - Printed fabrics are a huge part of traditional African fashion and were clearly a focal point of this collection. The pieces themselves weren't up my street but I loved the detailing in the prints.