and Designers Win World Acclaim
Africans are painting the world in a kaleidoscope of bold, vibrant color combinations and dazzling patterns. The rich fabrics and virtually unlimited selection of turbans and other festive headgear, bright scarves, colorful wraps, wearable art and elegant gowns that brightened our days and lit up our evenings in Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire Uganda, Benin, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea and other African destinations, were simply outstanding. What's more, so were the creators. During the past decade as publishers, we've had the privilege of meeting several of the brightest stars in Africa's fashion galaxy, and thanks to the magic of serendipity, more will surely appear in the near future. As I've learned, in many African societies, the choice of colors and textiles has special significance to the wearer. For example, hats often tell stories of everyday life, with its struggles, spiced by uplifting periods of joie de vivre.
While I have lived and worked in various North and West African countries in my earlier career as an airline and travel agent, my media involvement has brought the importance of African fashion into sharp focus. How did this love affair start? Perhaps it was at the first Africa Travel Association Fashion Show, organized by Chief Margaret Fabiyi of Lagos, Nigeria. The 'Chief' has supplied many of my favorite wardrobe items ever since. Here are some brief comments about her and others in this fascinating field.
Fashions from the Spice Island: Zanzibar is an exotic East African paradise of balmy beaches, fragrant spices, Swahili lifestyle and rich cultural treasures. It was here during the ATA's Seventh Cultural and Ecotourism Symposium, hosted by Zanzibar Tourism, that Editor Jerry Bird and I had the good fortune to meet and get to know Farouque Abdela. Each of the many fashion items on display at the Zanzibar Beach Resort Hotel that day was an individual work of art, featured side by side with his partner's latest creations on canvas. An international fashion designer, Abdela has worked with Iman, Donna Karan, Christian Lacroix and other names in the world of fashion.
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Alphadi brings African Fashion to Europe: While returning to Paris after an exciting month of business, conferences and touring in Cameroon, we spent some quality time with Seidnaly Alphadi, whose African- inspired creations have taken Europe by storm. It seemed like half of the Cameroon Airlines plane was filled with models from a Fashion Show our friend had just staged in that Central African country. We continued our fascinating interview at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Born in Niger, Alphadi's credentials include: Founder - Festival International de la Mode Africaine and President - Federation of African Creators. His global recognition includes the Chevalier de l'Ordre de Mérite de la France, Kora Fashion Award - South Africa, and Meilleur Styliste Africain - Fédération Française de la Couture et du Prêt à Porter.
Cameroon's Esterella Stars in Limbe: At a garden party, hosted by Cameroon's Ministry of Tourism near the popular Limbe Botanical Gardens, our group was treated to an outstanding fashion show by 'Esterella,' one of Cameroon's top designers. We made sure to renew our friendship with this talented lady on a return visit several year's later, and added to our archives of African fashion photography. Esterella is the first of several Cameroonian fashion designers on my recommended list.
Nigeria's Chief of Fashion: We met Chief Margaret Fabiyi at a conference in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa in 1997. One year later, in Arusha, Tanzania, we were treated to the first of a series of fashion shows this talented lady has organized for Africa Travel Association conferences. While enjoying luncheon at Arusha's Impala Hotel, it was suddenly announced that a fashion show was about to take place. To everyone's surprise, the models turned out to be our own delegates - and the variety of fashions for men and women, large and petit, young and not so young - was superb. Chief Margaret has staged encore presentations at ATA venues in Ethiopia and Cape Town, South Africa She resides in Lagos, and her company, Webisco, combines fashions and textiles with cultural tours, including her annual Black History Month series.
Ethiopia's Rising Star: Guenet Fresenbet, known as Gigi, launched the first fashion magazine in Ethiopia, with the message of promoting clothing that is made in Ethiopia by Ethiopians. Gigi's desire is to promote the Ethiopian textile and leather industry, so that Ethiopia as well as other African nations can play a more competitive role in the worldwide fashion industry. Gigi has always had a passion for art - but decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry in the late 80s after studying fine arts and graphic design in the United States. Although Gigi spent several years in the USA, she has always had a desire to return to her homeland to promote Ethiopian clothing and textiles. Her dreams have always been to see Ethiopian clothing sold in finer stores throughout the world.
Fashion through the ages: Coiffure and fashion wear is an expression of individuality and pride for African women. For many centuries Africans struggled to retain their unique traditions, languages and cultures. This was achieved despite wave after wave of outside influence and domination by Arabs and Europeans. One of the features that has remained virtually intact from generation to generation, was the African head wear. This crowning glory symbolizes strength as well as pride in one's self and one's city, village or country of birth. Attractive hats and tie-wraps are a portrayal of femininity and etiquette. Likewise, personal grooming and traditional hair styles of West African women mirrors their social status. African hats and head wraps are identified by their colorful fabrics and distinctive designs. We enjoy every opportunity to explore the cultural significance of African fashion.
African fashion has been a routine with our editorial team for years, at home in Canada and away in Africa. It's a reminder of the wide smiles, upbeat attitudes and lasting friendships we enjoy. Like the pace and lifestyle of Africa ... it feels natural.
Muguette Goufrani: firstname.lastname@example.org
Africa Travel Magazine, Worldwide Voice of the Africa Travel Association. http://www.africa-ata.org/fashion1.htm
The author was born in Casablanca, Morocco
Iman Cosmetics: Iman, daughter of a Somalian diplomat, might be called the Estee Lauder for women of color. Iman distributes her cosmetics in 700 shops in the USA. Now living in London and married to David Bowie, she's rated among the 5 most beautiful women in the world. Iman opened a shop in London and South Africa in 1998. Her products are for women of many races; Asian, Black, Hispanics and Arabs. Iman says that Metis are in fashion and provides products for them. Colored women were always ready to invest in cosmetics, a sector of rapid expansion. What's termed minorities, represents the majority of world population. In the USA, fifty percent of the public will soon be colored, which represents a gigantic purchasing power. We have to tell to the black women that they are beautiful. I am against products which clear the skin. Colored women sometimes use chemical products and damage their skin. Those products should be controlled by professional dermatologists.
Senegal's Queen of Couture: Where else does Western
chic meet Afro-avant-garde but in the creations of Oumou Sy,
Senegal's Queen of Couture. Her signature: bold fashion
ideas which contain glamorous Afro-centricism fused with
universal style. Ms. Sy is not only a prolific fashion
designer, but she is also a stylist, teacher, businesswoman
and founder of the annual Dakar Carnival and International
Fashion Week in Dakar. Always on the cutting edge, it was
she (with her partners) who pioneered cyber-cafe culture
across all of Senegal. (continued)
Decision. Fashion will Rule!
While we live in Canada's Pacific coast, as far away from Africa as you can get, we are always having conversations about this wonderful continent, its people and places, simply because our hats are recognized by Africans who are working here or are attending university. As a confirmed adventurer , I enjoy a visible link to the Africans who work so hard to create these fabrics, hats and other wardrobe items. By supporting African designers and artisans, our publisher, Jerry Bird and I are contributing on behalf of the magazine, to the economy and cultural heritage of African societies . We are also demonstrating to all we meet in person, on our web sites and in person, that there is an expanding market opportunity for African clothing and fashions. Each hat or article Jerry and I wear promotes the country of origin. The most noticeable items that occupy our closet to the bursting point, are found in the collection of hats from different African countries. We wear each one with pride; what you might call a positive hatitude!