Mercedes Benz Fashion Week: African Heritage Reimagined

Africa Fashion Week

Thousands of fashion industry icons and local and international media are set to converge on Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, for the fifth annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa (MBFWAfrica), next week, (from 29th October to 1st November) to celebrate not only Africa’s newfound identity as a trend-setting continent, but one with a clothing and textile industry now able to rival any in the world.

South Africa, home to Cape Town and Johannesburg, which ranked 27th and 37th respectively as global fashion capitals, has received major support from governing bodies in terms of growing its fashion and textile industries, with the Department of Trade and Industry recently approving a R200-million grant and five-year plan for The Southern African Sustainable Textile and Apparel Cluster – a clear indication of the government’s appreciation of the industry’s economic value and potential.

While a combination of factors have made for African fashion’s newfound stature – including a profound, modern take on African heritage – none can be more significant than the growth of the new African middle-class which has brought about a boom in the clothing and textiles sectors.

Home to seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, consumer spending in Africa is set to rise from US$860 billion in 2008 to USD$1.4 trillion in 2020, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, while Nigeria’s middle class grew 600% between 2000-2014 alone.

Add to this that African designers are receiving significant international repute and the feeling is that the continent’s fashion, design and textile industry is here to stay.

In turn, the market’s growth has also had a significant impact on the visibility of local designers, who are being stocked by a rapidly increasing number of top national clothing chains, such as Mr Price, Foschini, and Young Designer’s Emporium.

In addition, these designers are making their presence felt online via their own virtual stores, as well as those of major fashion retailers such as Spree and AFI PRIVÉ, African Fashion International’s exclusive, curated online designer collection.

To conclude the fashion-fest, on the last day of the MBFWAfrica, the continent’s fashion finest will be recognised at glittering Fashion Awards ceremony – The Africa Fashion Awards which will be brought by the leading fashion authority, African Fashion International (AFI). The AFAs are the continent’s foremost industry awards, recognising and celebrating exceptional achievement in fashion, modelling, retail and other clothing-and-textiles-related arts from Africa and its diaspora.

The nominees for the AFAs have been announced, with contenders coming from as far afield as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Italy in categories that include Designer of the Year; Emerging Designer of the Year; Accessory Designer of the Year; Outstanding Trend Communicator; Model of the Year; Outstanding Contribution to African Fashion; and AFI Young Designer of the Year.

The winners will be selected by an esteemed panel of judges including former ELLE South Africa editor & iconic fashion influencer, Jackie Burger; UNISA Director of VC Projects and Advisor to the Principal, Professor Puleng LenkaBula; Zambian-born, London-based journalist and Editor of New African Woman magazine, ReGina Jane Jere; Marie Claire South Africa editor, Aspasia Karras; and top stylist and fashionista, Arieta Mujay.

A striking line-up of over 50 male and 50 female models from around the world will walk the MBFWAfrica runway.

“From a database of over 100 agencies, through a stringent casting process, the top models from Africa and around the world have been shortlisted for designers’ ultimate selection. For MBFWAfrica 2014, AFI looked for a strong editorial look, charisma, presence, and the ability to translate a range of different designer’s style aesthetics; from couture to ready-to-wear. We are also constantly on the lookout for exciting new breakthrough faces,” says AFI Technical Director, Deon Redman.

Leading models set to grace the catwalk include New York Fashion Week regular, Ania Charlot from the USA; Nigeria’s Next Supermodel 2007 runner-up, Bunmi Ademokoya, who recently walked at New York and Berlin Fashion Weeks; Miss Cameroon 2013, Valérie Ayena; Adua Mornyang from Australia, who is a favourite of top Parisian designers such as Kenzo; Nigeria’s Next Supermodels 2011 and 2013, Favour Lucky and Imade Ogbewi; American Ero Esoimeme, fresh from London Fashion Week; and the face of Adidas’s latest campaign, Sanele Xaba from South Africa.

Fresh faces to be on the lookout for are Congolese beauty, Gaelle Kibikonda; ELITE Model Look South Africa 2013 finalists, Matachley Salmon and Bianca Raubenheimer; and male models, Arshad Dean, Benito van Leeuwen, Thomas Zalousmis, Marcus Karstens, and NK Mjweni..

And the designers are…

Over 30 of Africa’s foremost established and emerging designers will showcase at the MBFWAfrica. The stella line-up includes sartorial talent from all over Africa – including Cameroon, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – set to showcase under this year’s theme, “Our Heritage Reimagined”.

The first day of MBFWAfrica will present exciting collections from renowned labels, Kibonen (Cameroon), Intisaar (Zimbabwe), Mille Collines (Rwanda & Kenya) and Taibo Bacar (Mozambique). The ELLE Rising Star 2014 show will see finalists – Chris Dawson, Tamara Cherie Dyson, Frances Pauls, Kelli Botha, Nadia Viljoen, Jeandri Britz and Michelle van der Westhuizen – compete for the coveted accolade and the chance to design a capsule collection for retail clothing chain, Mr Price.

Day Two will bring striking collections from sartorial stars, Tina Lobondi (DRC); Marianne Fassler and Spero Villioti (South Africa); Josh&Nicol and one of Africa’s preeminent menswear designers, Mai Atafo (Nigeria) to the MBFWAfrica runway.

The third day will be a truly cross-continental affair with Sheria Ngowi, John Kaveke and KikoRomeo, Carducci, Christie Brown, Loza Maleombho, and Ituen Basi – from Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria respectively – set to bring their newest designs to the ramp.

The showcase will close out in style on Day Four, beginning with the much-anticipated capsule collections of the AFI Fastrack™ winners – Rich Mnisi, Jessica Ross, Nazneen Kagee and Tuelo Nguyuza – who will vie for the title of AFI Young Designer of the Year. Thereafter, the City of Tshwane Presents Show will bring designs from Archiebald Monyepao, Dennis Maponya & Neville Masondo to the ramp.

Finally, Murade (Mozambique), Nana Brenu (Ghana), Laurence Airline (Cote d’Ivoire) and David Tlale (South Africa) will unveil their latest collections and bring MBFWAfrica 2014 to an elegant conclusion.

What do you think?

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