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Every year Arise Magazine‘s “Made in Africa” show strives to shine a spotlight on a well edited group of African designers. Top models of color like Sessilee Lopez, Rose Cordero, and Jeneil Williams walked in the show. Noted attendees included Miss Jay Alexander, Omarion, Essence magazine Editor-in-Chief Constance White, and stylist June Ambrose.
Seven designers participated in the showcase: KLuK CGDT, Jewel by Lisa, Tsemaye Binitie, Pierre-Antoine Vettorello, Momo by Asibelua, Lanre da Silva Ajayi and Bunmi Koko. While their respective cultural influences proudly came through in their work, each designer offered modern, wearable pieces with impeccable tailoring and genius use of color.
Designer Fati Asibelua opened the show with a collection aptly named “African Kaleidescope.” Bright tartans, plaids, demure checks, and tie-dye patterns meshed symbiotically with ankara and tie-dye prints. From pencil skirts to dramatic caftans, decidedly western silhouettes were shown alongside pieces in more traditional African cuts, in a collection reflecting Africa’s cultural history with the west in a way that is not so painful as it usually is.
Lanre DaSilva-Ajayi showed her “Labour of Love,” a brilliantly textured and colorful collection inspired by butterfly wings. Lace overlays in rich jewel tones and glittery tweeds were the foundation for many standout looks. This collection was definitely my favorite. The designer stole the show when she took her bow, accidentally stepping out onto the wrong part of the stage and falling clear through! With assistance from the show’s staff, Ms. DaSilva-Ajayi, ever the trooper, picked up and walked the stage, obviously bemused by her clumsiness.
Bunmi Koko’s “Allure of the Sirens” captured the dreaminess of the mythical creatures with flowy, romantic looks. Sailing rope accessories and accents in the pieces buttressed the overall mood of the seafaring version of the femme fatale.
Clinically clean whites, shimmery neutrals, icy greys, and sheer blacks rounded out Tsemaye Binitie‘s offering of looks taking you from the boardroom to the ballroom. Smartly tailored pieces acted as the perfect foils for frothy frocks, and tassels playfully shimmied, accenting blouses and one particularly dramatic floor-length gown. A lone fuchsia and red dress added a welcome injection of color to the collection.
A playful cornucopia of multi textured and tonal prints was the name of the game for Jewel by Lisa’s “Vintage Love” collection. Keeping in the tradition of the line’s namesake, jewel toned patterns and glittery geometric prints dominated the looks, along with designer Lisa Folawiyo‘s famed wax prints, topped off by charming fila hats.
In what was probably the most interesting use of material, Pierre-Antoine Vettorello uses metal jaws as the narrative thread for his collection. The jaws, worn as jewelry or set directly into blouses were anchored by luxe silks in rich burgundies, cool silvers, and navy blues, giving ladylike silhouettes an aggressive edge.
South African designers Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel Du Toit of KLûK CGDT offer an emphatically ethereal collection. But the billowing chiffon looks were certainly not for the shrinking violet. High-waisted knickers showed underneath sheer skirts. Large floral applique’s and jewelry emboldened soft, elegant looks, giving them a playful, feminine sauciness. KlûK CGDT gives us a number of red-carpet worthy looks not for the faint of heart.
Overall, it was a wonderful show with many enviable pieces. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d never heard of these designers before. What a shame that people are missing out on such wonderful work! Hopefully showcases like this will push these designers’ work into the mainstream! I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.