#Fashion Week is a thrill and pure heaven for every and any fashionista but it’s not all glitz and glamour. Days of entertaining disorderly queues to proudly get a seat assignment can wear down even the most resilient fashion lover. Still, the highs outweigh the lows, so I’ll be back next season. Here’s my recap of the #Arise Promise of Africa Fashion Collective which was the focus of my journey to Bryant Park. Four designers excited our senses with color, texture, fringes and flair. We saw the good, the better, and the swag.
The Tifany Amber collection screamed spring with the vibrant kaleidoscopes of artist #Kolade Oshinowo. Abstract digital prints, an interpretation of an urban Lagos scene painted by the artist, sat alongside fine Chantilly lace and glamorous metallic weaves taking a cue from Diana Ross in the 1974 Motown hit. Mahogany with voluminous skirts and billowing sleeves; a collection for city nights or luxury resort living and I could hardly resist. My favorites were many but I particularly loved the aquamarine chantilly lace overlay shift dress.
South Afica’s #David Tlale also caught my attention with the short black fringed skirt with fringed black pleated top. Karolin who modeled the dress rocked it too. Black seemed to dominate his collection and I found that a little odd for Spring when vibrant colors seemed to rule but every girl needs a little black outfit and David Tlale added some flair to the lot. His inspiration was Africa’s diverse cultural heritage – from the San to the Ndebele tribes; attempting to capture Africa’s artistic wealth.
#Eric Raisina captured the vibrancy of his home town, Madagascar. We experienced his inspiration from the bustling sensuous markets, jacarandas in full bloom, the deep blue of the Indian Ocean and the gradations of red laterite at the island’s centre. My favorites were the red silk ribbon stitched on leopard tulle halter neck long bias dress and the dark aubergine and silver tie-died silk chiffon trimmed long halter neck dress with pleated front.
#Jewel by Lisa brought us #Ankara prints laden with hand-embellishments that transcend global fashions. New York women will fit right in with this collection; the snippy shorts, slim leg pants, mini cocktail frocks and leather-mix biker jackets in a cacophony of color off-set with batik-inspired silk prints. She left an indelible mark on her Ankara designs and I could see a good number of her pieces in my closet; the multi-colored circle print beaded long dress, the red and mustard swirl print cocktail dress with crystal and glass beaded detail, the leather cut out mini dress and the list goes on.
Overall it was a great show and our senses were excited with color, texture and creativity. I could hardly resist the urge of getting my hands on some of the pieces for shoots and my wardrobe; falling prey to the beauty that had just unfolded like a kid in the candy store. After asking #Folake Coker of Tifany Amber about some of her pieces she regrettably informed me that her clothes are currently not distributed in the US just yet; something she hopes to change sometime soon. That is an unfortunate predicament for some of these Africa based designers who get loads of exposure from fashion week but are unable to fully explore the potential and opportunities that result from the exposure.
I did have a major disappointment though. I noticed that despite all the hype last year about getting runway models to gain weight or using healthier models on the runway, a good number of the girls I saw at the #Arise Promise of Africa Collective runway were not only really skinny but looked quite hungry with bones sticking out. I could not fathom why the designers made such picks because they only took away from some of the beautiful outfits. One case in point was the model who walked for Jewel By Lisa to showcase the multi-colored circle print beaded long dress. I believe her name is Iris. Seeing her bones stick out was awful. I was seriously concerned.
A model was reported to have actually passed out at Jeffrey Chow’s first collection for the Poleci presentation the next day with producers having to put cold Coca-Cola cans on her head and feed her fruit to bring her back. Hopefully next year, the designers will set an example with the girls they select to showcase their beautiful clothes.
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DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: Sheelah Garbrah Gives The Kente Cloth A Stunning Makeover With Her Ohemaa Collection
Sheelah Garbrah is a Ghanaian fashion designer currently based in Ghana. Her fashion label, “Shebybena” is widely worn by celebrities within and outside the country. She has sewn for popular actresses like Yvonne Nelson and Joselyn Dumas.
Garbrah’s passion for cloth making began at a tender age. Confirming this in an interview, the 31-year old designer said,
“My passion for fashion started when I was in secondary school. I found myself always sketching clothes and designing. I loved to design my own clothes for seamstresses when my mum took us to have dresses made.”
Appearances at major fashion shows
Fashion events give designers the opportunity to showcase their collection to a wider audience. It is always the dream of a designer to be invited to major fashion events. Garbrah has featured in many fashion events within and outside Ghana. Her first fashion show appearance was on Glitz Africa Fashion Week in 2014. She was also part of the Durban Fashion Fair. Narrating her experience she said,
“The Durban Fashion Fair was extremely exciting because that was my first time taking part in a fashion show outside Ghana.”
The Kente-inspired Ohemaa collection
Her “Skittles” collection received numerous positive feedbacks. However, Garbrah has been spinning heads on social media since the release of her “Ohemaa” collection. The collection is a combination of spectacular designs carved from different Kente cloth designs. The Kente dress is a brightly colored silk and cotton fabric made up of various strips sewn together. The word Kente comes from’ kenten’ which means ‘basket’ in Akan dialect. The patterns on a Kente are symbolic. Of great interest is how Garbrah integrates these meanings into the Ohemaa collection.
The Ohemaa collection creatively combines kente with other fabrics to give a seamless finish. There are four different designs currently making rounds in the Ohemaa collection. Each of the designs is paired with a statement fascinator. The fascinator hat is made by Traditions Couture Millinery.
#1 – The Kyemfere Dress
Kyemfere loosely translates to ‘Potsherd’. This pattern is a symbol of experience, knowledge, service, time, antiquity, rarity, and heirloom. The pattern is also backed by the proverb,'The potsherd claims it has been around from time immemorial; what about the potter who molded it?' - African Proverb Click To Tweet
Sleeveless gowns are not particularly new but having a Kente touch makes the difference. Garbrah brilliantly combines the yellow and blue kyemfere pattern kente dress with Ankara. The kente dress forms the blouse and fuses with the yellow Ankara skirt.
The skirt flares down ending with fluffy blue embedding. The creative finish at the base of the gown is one of the reasons many argue Garbrah designed it with princesses in mind. At the waistline, there are two folds of kente dress sewn into blue silk to give the impression that the kente dress is rolling out of the silk.
As a topping, the dress is paired with a hat accessory from Traditions Couture Millinery. The blue flower and yellow feather fixed to a headband complete the outfit. In addition to the royal color, the veil draws attention like a bride-to-be.
#2 – The Sika Futoro Dress
The Sika Futoro literarily means gold dust. The gold dust was a medium of exchange among the Akan people before the coming of paper currency. This pattern replicates the gold dust. The cloth symbolizes royalty, wealth, spirituality, elegance, honorable achievement, and purity.
There are so many features of this gown that cannot be missed on a first glance beside the combination of orange and purple. The right shoulder has a strap while the left hangs loose. Rather than have a strap, a fold from the right extends diagonally to form a covering for part of the right hand.
The rest of the gown flows freely downward only interrupted by a front slit that extends to the thigh. The purple, silk flower on the right side of the waist is not just an attachment like you would see with some designers. The silk from the flower runs around the waist and forms part of the gown on the back.
Complementing the dress is a colorful fascinator. The headgear consists of an orange zucchetto with a blossoming purple rose at the top with making a bold fashion statement.
#3 – The Nanka Tire Dress
This pattern is translated as the Puff Adder’s head. It symbolizes being over-burdened with work or exploitation. The accompanying proverb is “I cannot even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder’s head as the carrying pad”. Garbrah’s design will leave you looking like a bird rather than being exploited.
This is another perfect fusion of Ankara with kente. The sleeves are designed to look like the wings of a bird. An oval cut on the outside reveals the wearer’s shoulder. The slit running from the neck to below the breast is lined on both sides by red flowers while translucent silk covers the gap.
Two variations of the same patterned kente dress form the base of the gown. The first variation runs from the waist to below the calf while the second flare up to the toes. The deeper red color of the pattern of the flare complements red flowers on the chest.
The accompanying fascinator blends with the entire outfit in color and design. Flowers similar to the one used to adorn the chest sit on an orange headband which can be secured firmly to the head. The entire apparel is not only appealing but also teasing.
#4 – The Eban Dress
Garbrah carved this design from non-regular kente dress. However, it bears the characteristic eban adinkra symbol. Eban is a ‘fence’ which fence symbolically separates and secures the family from the outside. Eban is a symbol of love, safety, and security. Apart from the fabric, the design is enticing and would make you feel loved.
From the top, you will first notice how the left shoulder is allowed to hang loosely. The right-hand rests on the shoulder and has a curvature in form of a cone running from the front to the back. Like other designs in the Ohemaa collection, Garbrah combines two fabrics but the closeness of color can make it difficult to spot.
This design also has a front slit which extends to the thigh. However, unlike the two previous designs, this one has no flare. The gown runs straight from the hips to the toes. If you want to look elegant without calling too much attention with bright colors, this should be your pick.
To cap it off, this dress is paired with a beautiful fascinator hat consisting of a bouquet of blue roses. Two antenna-like filaments extend from the left side of the hat and curve to the right.
Beyonce Wears Ankara Suit By Nigerian Designer to UTA Artist Space Event
Beyonce has been known to spice up her wardrobe with the occasional Ankara (African Print) outfit. Her most recent Afronista statement was made at the UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills where she wore a colorful print African style pantsuit with matching hat. She attended the event with her husband JayZ to support their friend Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean at the group exhibition “Dreamweavers.”
The Designer Ena Udemba
The custom outfit was made by 34-year-old Nigerian designer Ena Udemba. In an interview with Bustle, Udemba shared that her Etsy shop “EnaGancio” had caught the attention of Beyonce’s personal stylist Zerina Ackers. Ackers asked Udemba for a one of a kind outfit made for the Grammy award-winning singer and actress.
“The creation had to be unique, something for her alone. The biggest queen on earth! I felt responsible,” she explains. “I just had to make some modifications for it to be unique for Queen B! I felt anxious and at the same time determined to be successful.”
An African Style Look That Is Befitting of Queen Bey
Beyonce’s African Style
This is not the first time Beyonce has afronized her look. She occasionally incorporates afrocentric pieces into her style and in typically Bey style, she knocks the looks out of the park.
The Looks That Afronized The Black Panther Hollywood Movie Premiere
Hollywood was Afronized last night at the Black Panther Movie Premiere. Now let’s be honest, we were a little disappointed when some of the Actors showed up in their typical Western gear. I know we should not take these things personal but we did. They could have Afronized even a little bit you know. Take Jamie Foxx for example, he wore a Wakanda T-Shirt, we think that counts … ok it is not perfect but at least he tried.
All was not lost of course. Our disappointment was all but forgotten when we saw the damsels of the evening. Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett set the tone and just had us gushing at how they maintained a very contemporary Afronista vibe. The men did not disappoint either. So we have compiled our favorite Afronized looks from the Purple Carpet.
Black Panther Purple Carpet
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