As the Africa Fashion Week New York begins today 4th September, to 6th September, Ventures Africa will be publishing a series of stories reflecting the showpiece event as well as Africa’s budding fashion industry. The following article is the first, and it takes a look at the significance of the Africa Fashion Week New York.  

Of course this year’s Africa Fashion Week New York will be dominated as usual by alluring fashion designs, embroidered by glitzy settings and choreographed by modish models elegantly strutting runways to the oohs and ahhs of fashionistas. But that won’t be all for which this annual showpiece event will be remarked.

AFWNY has indeed gone beyond fashion and its glamour pages; the show in no little way signifies the emergence of Africa in the global scheme of things, a desire to no longer be a passive spectator but an active player in the world’s top league of innovators and producers.

Founded in 2009 by PR extraordinaire Adiat Disu through her PR firm Adirée, Africa Fashion Week has become a renowned platform celebrating and showcasing Africa’s brightest designers and their enthralling designs across the world’s fashion capitals of New York, London, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Adiat Disu, President and Founder of African Fashion Week.
Adiat Disu, President and Founder of African Fashion Week.

Adiat, a paragon of that rekindled African desire to showcase its socio-cultural magnificence, through Adirée promotes and expands market opportunities locally and internationally for African businesses especially in, but not limited to, the fashion and luxury industry. Adirée’s premier event is the African Fashion Week of which the New York edition is it’s flagship.

However, after four remarkably successful outings, the New York edition of this year’s Africa Fashion Week has got a tweak that turns everything up a notch, several notches actually. Normally held as a stand-alone fashion expo in the month of July, the showpiece event got moved to this month for no grander reason than that it was joining the calendar-stopping New York Fashion Week (NYFW).

About joining the NYFW, Spice TV quotes Adiat Disu as saying; “to gain what is necessary for participating designers, we (Adirée) had to move the [event] to coincide with New York Fashion Week…” that was quite reserved and modest. With A-class African fashion designers displaying their innovative Afrocentric creations, the AFWNY is not just gaining but also giving diversity to the New York Fashion Week.

A roll call of some of the top guys showcasing their designs at the event include: Eki Orleans of Hazel Eki Aggrey Orleans (Nigeria/Germany), Gavin Rajah of Gavin Rajah Atelier/Couture (South Africa), Khadijah Hilda of Morocco Caftan (New York and Morocco),  Igwedinma Emeka  of McMeka (Nigeria), Firkirte Addis (Ethiopia), Anaba Wisdom Chidebube of Weiz Dhurm Franklyn (Nigeria), Hilda Mauya of Dahil Republic of Couture Fashion House (Kenya) and Sally Karago of Mcensal (Kenya), Tizita of Tizitahabesha Clothing (Ethiopia) Issa (Nigeria) amongst a host of others.


Bringing together these top artists, Adiat says the goal of AFW is to re-brand Africa and position it as a continent that also produces luxury products and services, much like its European counterparts; exactly what’s being achieved. As at 2012, the success of the show since its conception had increased awareness of African fashion by 8.5 million views, generated financing for designers and artisans marketing initiative, and created 100 jobs. By December 2013, $300,000 had been generated for African designers and artisans to showcase in the U.S.

Barely two years after the premiere of the event, the AFW New York was reported to have attracted more than 1,500 industry insiders. It had also secured the support and proclamation from the office of then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who emphasized the event would promote tourism to New York with 70 percent of designers coming directly from Africa, thereby further fostering a relationship between the U.S. and Africa.

Fast forward to the present and all those achievements have, if nothing else doubled, a testament of which is its joining of the NYFW. Make no mistake about the significance of this; New York is arguably the world’s epicentre of business, fashion and art, and right at the centre of New York will be Africa.

All three Celebrities wearing Deola Sagoe's Designs
All three Celebrities wearing Deola Sagoe’s Designs

This highlights the new African narrative, a shift from the negative perceptions of the black continent to an appreciation of its abounding and blossoming talent, creativity and entrepreneurship. This is where Adirée says the Africa Fashion Week comes in, “establishing the way consumers should view products from Africa (i.e. Made in Angola, Made in Zimbabwe, or Made in Nigeria)”.

Thus, this three day fashion event showcases not just fabulous dresses but the growing international interest in investing in and partnering with African businesses. Like the US-Africa summit, the Africa Fashion Week  New York and its joining of the New York Fashion Week shows a continent ready for and attracting international businesses.

So, as the world admires the best of African fashion and couture, their attention and attraction will also be be caught by a continent emerging from the dark shadows of poverty and dependence into the limelight of beautiful business potentials and economic development.

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