Above sequence by Gilbert Otiendo, Nairobi, Kenya

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African Fashions and Designers Win World Acclaim
By Muguette Goufrani


Africans are painting the world in a kaleidoscope of bold, vibrant colour combinations and dazzlin patterns. The rich fabrics and virtually unlimited selection of turbans and other festive headgear, bright scarves, colourful 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 colours 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.

Aphadi 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, Aphadi'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: africa@dowco.com

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.

Oumou Sy, 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.

Mali Shows Off Fashions and Musical Talent: The Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts for the Republic of Mali showcased the rich culture of Mali and its people at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. In addition to the great entertainment, Mali's musical ambassadors gave their United States audience a sample of the country's colorful fashions. Stay tuned for much more about Mali's role in the world of fashion and design. More->

Convinced by the results from Webtrends and comments from Tourism Ministers, we know that Africa Travel Magazine's readers enjoy this timely topic. That's why we invite designers, jewelers

Instant Decision. Fashion will Rule!
At Mrs. Fabiyi's fashion affair in Arusha, Tanzania, we decided on the spot that fashion would play a leading role in our magazine. The exciting thing about this particular show, was the fact that our own delegates from the USA and Africa participated as models. That simple but effective format set the pattern for future ATA fashion shows at congresses and symposia in Ethiopia, South Africa, Cameroon, Guinea, Morocco, Zambia and Zanzibar..

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 hat-itude!



Ethiopian Artifacts and Antiques . New Website partners with Africa Travel Magazine

 Textile Information from the Web

Adire African textiles gallery: variety of styles. Some African textiles such as adinkra, kente and bogolan are becoming increasingly well known. www.adire.clara.net/

Social Fabric: Exploring the Kate Kent Collection of African Textiles. www.du.edu/duma/africloth/

Sub-Saharan African Textiles. from MARLA MALLETT www.marlamallett.com/african.htm

South Africa's Fashion Week
Sandton Convention Center, July

Fashion Boutiques of Cape Town
Capsule on a variety of great little shops


1. Africa Fashion
African Fabrics
Fashion Museum
Fashion Shopping
Fashion Shows
Fashion Web
Hats and Coiffure

More Links
Ms Africa Pageant
Fashion Views
Fashion Cameroon
Fashion Ethiopia
Fashion Ghana
Fashion Mali
Fashion Senegal
Fashion Tanzania
Fashion Uganda
Fashion Zanzibar
Cosmetic Surgery

African Designer Links
Didas New Fashion

The Fabric of West African Lifesytle

Spring 2006 marks the Africa Travel Association's return visit to Ghana to stage a major event. Naturally, when our members talk of Ghana and its West African neighbours, the following question usually crops up - what is Kente Cloth?

Kente Cloth is an Asante ceremonial cloth that is hand-woven on horizontal treadle looms. The looms we observed in a village on the outskirts of historic Kumasi were out in the open air, although the weavers, in their wisdom, chose a grassy, shaded area. Cloth strips, approximately 4 inches wide are sewn together into larger bolts. Of many colors, sizes and designs, Kente cloth products, long scarfs in particular, are worn throughout Ghana and its neighboring countries, during most social and religious occasions. The name is derived from the word 'kenten,' which means basket. We saw virtually every possible color and pattern of kente cloth during the day-long Durbar ceremony at Koforidua village near Accra. According to Ghanaians, kente depicts the area's history and philosophy, its ethics, oral literature, moral values, social and religious concepts. Several of the Kente Cloth caps we purchased in Ghana in 1999 have been our trademark at events ever since, and the colors are still vibrant.


ATA 31st World Congress, Nigeria Night Gala Fashion Show by Chief Margaret Fabiyi (right). Photos by Robert Eilets