Fashion Week: Africa In New York

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Design: Label Asikere Afana, Photographer: Antonella, MUA Nyandibo
 
 
Opening day for "New York Fashion Week: Africa," a one-day activation under the Africa Fashion Week brand, commenced on Friday, September 11, 2015 at the Broad Street Ballroom (41 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004). 
 
Here, the Luxury Africa Conference (discussion), Runway (promotion), and Prints and Mixer (building relations—  networking) took place. Hosted by Adirée Communication and PR firm, guests experienced a piece of Africa while attending New York Fashion Week. Sponsors included Fantasia Hair, Agadir International, Dr. Miracles, Biokide and Nuvino Wines. The official beauty partner was Nyandibo Cosmetics (photos and full press release below).
 
New York Fashion Week: Africa kicked off with a light, yet informative, discussion. At the Luxury Africa Conference the question presented was: "What will it take for Africa to be the premier destination for luxury?” The panel consisted of Executive Directors of fashion and lifestyle brands including:
 
Liberia-born Creative Director and Celebrity Designer Korto Momolu from Project Runway season 5
 
Maryanne Mathias of  Osei-Duro ( Los-Angeles and Ghana based lifestyle brand) 
 
CEO and Founder Fanta Kamara of luxury lifestyle brand Marazetti (made in Liberia)
 
Moderator Adiat Disu, founder of Adirée, opened the discussion with the many questions that inspired the panel  — her curiosity as to how each panelist defined African luxury through their brand stories, if there is a demand for African products globally (or is an optimistic ideal), and how their products are valued or perceived on a global scale.
 
As it relates to her brand, Momolu redefines luxury by promoting diverse beauty. ”When we think of luxury, we think of money and riches but we have to think of money and riches in a different way. What are riches? What makes my designs rich is how it makes women with curves feel. As designers I believe we fail women when we make them feel insecure or undesirable. Yes, I am African, my designs aren’t necessarily of an African aesthetic or consist of indigenous textiles, but I apply my understanding and cultural experience — growing up with African women [curvy women] — to my designs.“
 
Momolu further describes how she strives to define luxury by ensuring her designs are for every day women who embrace having body types that differ from society’s standards. She makes pieces that fit -all women- or African/American women of all sizes, while catering to respective market needs.
 
Designer Mathias explained how Osei-Duro marries western tastes for silk and rayon fabrics to traditional dye techniques from Ghana to create their renowned prints and designs. Every piece becomes a special keepsake that represents Ghana.
 
Since these pieces are so culturally rich, buyers in the United States perceive their brand as being luxurious, even desiring the brand to raise prices in order to fit in with higher-end brands. “My partner and I talk about this all the time, said Mathias. “If we raise our prices, we cut out a whole market segment that’s supporting us right now.”
 
Having higher-end buyers desire an increase in value for indigenous textiles like the ones used for Osei- Duro’s designs shows the demand for something unique. But how do we take something unique to one culture and make it accessible to all while reflecting this value of luxury?
 
CEO and founder of the Marazetti brand, Kamara said she sees potential for indigenous luxury, not only in the African market[s], but also for African products internationally. Kamara said the experience that comes with receiving an African product heightens the luxury factor. “Whether they’re fabrics or natural materials — beads or pearls  — actually seeing someone go to the river and bring them out delivers that experience.”
 
After hearing from each panelists, taking insightful questions from audience members, Disu (moderator), concluded with the following statement: “ In order for Africa to be the premier destination for luxury it must first define what makes Africa’s products luxurious (perhaps redefining or adding to the definition of Luxury). Shifting the definition of luxury as it pertains to indigenous products and brands from Africa will be fundamental in competing and being respected globally. We must find, understand, and value what makes us luxurious.” The other part of Africa becoming a destination for luxury is its accessibility. This means, finding the right distribution outlets and marketing platforms to present brands to  consumers. Otherwise, from what I gathered from the panelists, a great part of what makes brands from Africa luxurious is its ability to: represent diversity; be ethical and sustainable; and, its rich authentic stories and cultural origin. 
 
 
New York Fashion Week: Africa - The Runway Showcase
 
Our 8 designers gave the runway life with their SS’16 collections ranging from ready-to-wear pieces to dramatic evening gowns.
Designers ( in order of showcase) who showed their collections were:
 
Onyii & Co. – Nigeria/US
 
Sarfo of Styles - Ghana
 
Osei-Duro – Ghana/LA
 
Asikere Afana – Jamaica/US
 
House of Mucha – Zimbabwe/UK
 
Sakia Lek – Congo / US
 
Yefikir Designs – Ethiopia
 
Dahil Republic of Couture – Kenya/US
 
Onyii & Co. graced the runway with bright cheer-filled colors and bird-inspired prints throughout her dresses and other outfits. Her designs brought the ambience of a fresh start to a vibrant morning. The mood changed when Sarfo of Styles’ dramatic evening gowns flowed down the catwalk. Geometrics and drama filled his collection with loop-like dresses. As some of the models walked towards the end of the runway, dresses with large loops were suddenly released to morph into more modern and wearable silhouettes accompanied by gasps of awe from an enchanted audience. As the collection continued, black and white pieces along with some bold fabrics caught the attention of guests throughout his 15 piece + presentation of designs. Maryanne Mathias brought an L.A. vibe with her Ghanaian indigenous textiles with pieces by Osei-Duro. Every dress and ready-to-wear design showed off the intricate signature prints on their bags and clothing.
 
The excitement continued with Ashley Macfarlane’s dashiki dresses from fashion label Asikere Afana. Her fun flirty and sustainable line (made in Ghana), created a down-to-earth vibe.  LinDi of House of Mucha also brought back a blast from the past feel with her 70’s inspired pieces for both men and women. Greek inspired pastel designs brought on a calm mood as models displayed Sakia Lek’s pieces. Sandals and flowery headbands tied these pieces together seamlessly.Designer Fikirte Addis of fashion label Yefikir also displayed boho chic ready-to-wear pieces. Each piece had water-like and air-like movements, reminiscent of the earth’s elements — truly indicative of mother nature. A dramatic finale by Dahli Republic of Couture followed Yefikir’s designs.Designer Hilda Mauya’s series of jackets and red dress pieces from her Red Ruby collection brought a sophisticated flair that definitely had a mixture of both African and Western influences.
 
Boston Chery (spinning tunes at Afropunk in Atlanta currently) played a fusion of Afro and Caribbean beats while Nuvino Wines added flavor to the event, providing guests with culture-filled wine: its South African Chardonnay married with fine Argentine wine, a deep violet wine that explodes with plum, black currant and vanilla notes. Guests that graced the entire event and blue carpet included reality show celebrities such as MaameYaa Boafo from An African City, athletes (WBNA players Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike), and press from Vogue China, Essence, and Ebony.
 
ADIRÈE is a luxury group & lifestyle-branding firm conceived to develop solutions, media, marketing & retail installations. We provide globally minded & eco-conscious consumers with modern, exciting & sustainable alternatives to connect to Africa and meaningful programs. We curate, bridge & develop partnerships between the world & Africa.
 
ADIRÈE is the company behind the newly re-branded activation New York Fashion Week: Africa, an idea fostered by Adiat Disu and her team after reviewing the trend and proliferation of Africa Fashion Week (in fashion capitals) around the world. In their mission to integrate Foreign and Africa’s brands globally, while maintaining a sustainable platform, the idea of creating one day activations during major fashion capital’s retail driven weeks was born. Respecting the fashion calendar’s structure (for example: in New York, London, Paris, Milan), Adirèe and partners desire to place Africa on the global fashion map through meaningful programming, retail-focused activations and creative presentations.
 
Adiree is the branding and communications firm behind the brand New York Fashion Week Africa, an idea fostered and re-molded by Adiat Disu after watching Arise Magazine’s runway show during New York Fashion Week in 2009.
 
Under Africa Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week Africa is a social enterprise: a platform for trade, marketing and development of Africa through ethical practices and fashion. New York Fashion Week Africa was made for the need to bridge the gap, connect continents, and provide a platform for international retailers and designers worldwide. In 2009, Adirèe founded the Africa Fashion Week (in fashion capitals) concept, a platform for placing structure around Africa's developing retail and fashion industry and promoting international economic partnerships. (Read more on FORBES)
 
Our platforms aim to educate, empower, and connect inspirational brands and individuals interested in breaking down barriers and creating structure around industries for business. Our premier launch of Africa Fashion Week (AFW) in New York attracted more than 1,500 industry insiders. The event also secured the support and an official proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who emphasized the event would promote tourism to New York with 70% of designers coming directly from Africa; thereby further fostering a relationship between the U.S. and Africa.
  
For more information contact our team and/or Gbemisola Folashade (Adiat) Disu at Events@adiree.com

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