Highlights of the inaugural Africa Fashion week, New York

NEW YORK – The successful launch of the most anticipated event in the African fashion industry, Africa Fashion Week (New York) (AFWNY) took place during the week of July 12-18, 2010 in New York City. AFWNY is a luxury multi-day event that includes fashion shows, trunk shows, samples sales, exhibitions, and industry networking events with for sole purpose to raise awareness of African/African American/Afro-Caribbean fashion which is often misrepresented as mainly tribal and never sophisticated.

Models, designers, photographers, journalists and fashion lovers originating from all over the African continent partook in the festivities. The event was produced by Adireé Fashion Agency under the strong entrepreneurial mindset of Adiat Disu, the daughter of Nigerian ex-World Cup player Tajudeen Disu. Proceeds from the week went to non profits organization to support African related causes such as Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project, Hope Africa and Fashion Feeds Foundation.

The first day of AFWNY kicked off on Thursday, July 15th. The runway show was supposed to start at 4 PM, but we can insert the term fashionably late here; it began at 5PM. An announcement was made in English and French before the show to welcome and thank everyone for attending AFWNY. Eleven designers showcased fifteen to twenty pieces; Fares Cherait from Tunisia opened up the show. This proved to be an intelligent choice as his war-inspired collection with models carrying daggers and wearing red and black leather outfits took the audience by surprise. His first piece was unrelated to the rest of his collection, but he chose it because it was logic for the show to start off with an “afrocentric” outfit.


Leonche, Vida Mahimbo, Qetura, House of Bunor, Darryl Jagga, Stella Atal, Kozby World, Fabulous Fingers, Kumba Wear and BebeGrafiti were the next designers to present their collection. It was a triumph as the bombardment of creativity and innovation brought about visual pleasure to the audience. The mix of colors and the overloads of prints combined with models marching with a furious glamour made the pieces breathtaking and extraordinary. During the brief intermission, the audience had a hard time summing up the wonderful vision of genius they have just witnessed.


 To a soundtrack of fast paced drumming, courtesy of world famous DJ Zimo, BebeGrafiti was one among many designers to offer a clean cut, sensational and sophisticated collection. Her show began with an elegant floor length dress topped with a see through lace opening. The mixing of colors such as bright yellow and dark blue worked wonders on the models’ complexion and was a delight to the eyes. The designer didn’t miss a beat; from fragile sheer blouses to heavy velvet jackets, BebeGrafiti showed an intelligent exploration of how both can be mixed to create remarkable pieces. Extravagance with a sense of freshness, restraint in the use of accessories and the clever mix of fabrics complimented each piece.       

On Friday, July 16th, the second day of AFWNY, the runway once again became alive with colors, prints and complicated shapes. The show started late, but this time the room was packed; employees were running around trying to find enough chairs to accommodate the ever growing audience. The line to enter the ballroom stretched onto the street and an audible sound of excitement could be heard among fashion enthusiasts. James Ihedigbo, Nigerian American football safety for the New York Jets, was in attendance.


 Nigerian designer Yemi Osunkoya from Kosibah started off the show presenting figure fitting couture designs. The collection enhances female form and gave out a relaxed elegance many women could identify with. Osun Designs, Lin-Z-Inc., 54 Kingdoms, Kirette Couture, Charlene Amankwah, Côté Minou, Solome, Arewa Designs, L~Shandi, Chianu International and Bill Witherspoon were the latest runway collections to be featured at AFWNY.


Suffice to say, the contemporary feel of the clothes mixed with the richness of Africa’s cultures gave each pieces unique beauty, passion and strength. Every young woman, regardless of ethnicities, in the audience could identify with the strong and powerful chic pieces from  the designers, such as Côté Minou.  From the very first look out – a form fitted short dress with rich color prints accessorized with a multitude of necklaces – everyone one was on alert, patiently and silently waiting for the next piece. Modern items, such as bold shouldered jacket and bubble shorts, were covered with African prints in ways that surpass expectations. Look after look, the designers didn’t fail and offer a myriad of classy silhouettes that left the audience gasping for more.


On Saturday, July 17th, the last day of AFWNY, the ballroom was transformed into a boutique with designers putting on display their one-of-a-kind pieces, still fresh from the runway. Customers had the opportunity to interact with them and purchase merchandise before it was made available to the general public. In addition to designers selling their items, sponsors such as Iman Cosmetics and Makari de Suisse were also in attendance, allowing people to get their makeup done free of charge.


Among the many wonderful products for sale were Eki’s Famous by Ekiuwa Asemota. This Nigerian jewelry designer offered one of kind handmade original pieces. Her jewelry line is very distinct and consists of unique pieces that identify with people’s individuality and that fit their fashion style.


“Wearing an Eki’s Famous piece not only defines a look, but tells a unique story,” said the designer.


After all the hard work in planning, rehearsing and getting ready, AFWNY finally closed off but not before a private soiree was thrown in honor of its success and to celebrate the amazing work of all. The soiree was catered by Buka Nigerian Restaurant, who served delicious authentic Nigerian food. Gift bags were given out to the audience as a token of appreciation by Disu who was so grateful for all the support she received and proud to have hosted such an event.


The headlines of the night were performances by International Sensation Artist Toba Gold and Best Rap Duo UE (Upper Echelon). The latter performed their international single “Cuz I Say So” featuring Nigerian International Rap Star EL Dee, who unfortunately wasn’t able to attend the event. The “Best Rap Duo” composes their own music and writes their own lyrics; their latest single, which they debuted at the soiree, is heavily Fela influenced with a strong touch of Afro Beat. They wish to bring together Hip Hop and Nigerian Afro Beat music because of the rampant similarities between both. “It is a Fela inspired song and a Hip Hop song. There is a lot of Africans in the building but we are in America so we are combining forces. It is a beautiful thing,” stated UE.


Indeed, AFWNY was a beautiful thing. African designers are no longer confined to the domestic market and are gaining global recognition and fame. Established and upcoming designers were able to showcase their talent and received national as well as international media coverage.

 Courtesy of Adireé Fashion Agency & Africa Fashion Week (New York)

photo credits: Nawcious Fliksosik, Vanessa Ceaser at Society Hae, Robert Cooper

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