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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 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, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire Uganda, Benin, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, 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.


By Sola Jolaoso & Vivian Asamoah
Making laces for Africa

It was the Canadian writer Muguette Goufrani who once said, “Africans are painting the world in a kaleidoscope of bold colours and patterns”. She was referring to the uniqueness of African fashion.

African aesthetic sensibilities are reflected in the modern traditional clothing styles, which are independent of international fashion trend. In fact, the corporal modesty of African dresses are in sharp contrast to the body exhibitionism in today’s Western haute couture.

Uniquely-African vibrant colour combinations, dazzling patterns, rich fabrics and fabulous headgear make many a ceremonious event colourful and enliven the atmosphere.

Modern African dresses reflect the personality of their wearer, a practice that is firmly rooted in African tradition, where fashion is an expression of individuality and pride. And the trend is trendier design that is up to date in its functionality and which appeals even more to non-Africans.

The self-confidence with which Africans now wear their traditional clothing in Europe and North America is increasing the international visibility of African fashion.

At official functions, be it diplomatic receptions or international conferences, wherever Africans are, there is also African fashion. African dresses are no longer that exotic apparel reserved for that special occasion or evening.

Walking through the streets of London, Berlin, Cologne and Paris in friendly summer weather, one cannot miss the many Africans proudly wearing their dresses, joined by a small, but increasing numbers of Europeans.

African fashion is truly an international business. Some of the major textile materials used in African fashion, such as Dutch wax, Guinea brocade and laces are made in Europe; foreign manufactured fabrics that are a cultural good in Africa!

Though of foreign origin, laces have held their own as the textiles of choice in West Africa since the early 1960s and have proved to be fabrics that do not go out of fashion.

A lace is a lightweight, open-work fabric, patterned with open holes in the work. The fabric is of different types, defined by how it is made and what it is made of. The major types of lace are voile lace, satin lace, cotton lace, organza lace etc.

However evergreen laces are, the designs in which they come are ever changing. In fact, designs are what make laces stand out, and hence, those who can afford it order their laces in special designs that are exclusive to them. Such designs are referred to in Nigeria as “one in town”.

One of the major makers of lace is the Austrian family company Ernex Embroideries. Based in the town of Lustenau – in the traditional textile-making region of the Alpine country, Ernex has built a solid reputation as producers of finest laces and other textiles, which are used in traditional African clothing.

Founded in 1963, the Austrian company is, in fact, one of the most advanced manufacturers of laces worldwide and its cutting edge technology enables it to produce laces of the best quality. No wonder, Africans place a very high value on the products of Ernex Embroideries, a trademark that has become a household name among the fashion conscious in West Africa today.

Ernex’s modern and expansive showroom in Lustenau receives daily many African visitors from all over Europe and of course from Africa who come to buy their products or order special lace designs.

The company whose excellent customer service has endeared it to its numerous African customers has indeed earned its good reputation.



By Elijah Chemobo

East African fashion scene is becoming more vibrant and dynamic. The Kampala Fashion Intro 2014 took it a notch higher recently. There was a big treat for fashion lovers as exquisite designs from some of the top creative names in the region were showcased. The aim of the event was to promote fashion and the arts as a serious business, while promoting unity in the region.

The event at Kampala Serena Hotel was the precursor to this year's regional fashion weeks to be held in August in Burundi and Rwanda in early November. This will be followed by Uganda’s Kampala Fashion Week slated for NovemberThe events will provide networking opportunities for those in the fashion industry.

Featured on the runway were glitzy catwalk collections by international fashion labels from the East Africa region. They included Gloria Wavamunno, Anna-Clare Lukoma of Lulu, Balungi, Isabella Asiimwe and Xenson representing Uganda; Cynthia Rupari, Kelvin Kagirimpundu and Patrick Muhire representing Rwanda; Sheria Ngowi from Tanzania; and Cynthia Munwangari and Krystal Bell from Burundi.

"This festival obviously incorporates all aspects of the fashion industry; the cultural, the modern, the hippy and trendy. Our anticipation is that this will be a trend-setter for the local and regional fashion industry as well," Joel Kanyamunyu, director at Great Lakes Arts Association told the Star.

Kanyamunyu said that fashion need not be limited to expensive designer brands, left-of-the-mainstream labels and trendy statements.

In addition to the runway shows highlighting avant-garde lines of casual wear, evening gowns, wedding fashion and cocktail dresses, the two-day-long soiree also hosted discussions aimed at promoting and supporting the creative talents in Eastern African region.

"We need to embrace our Ugandanness and love Made in Uganda products," said Anna-Clare Lukoma, 35, who teamed parachute hem dresses with kooky glasses, turbans and statement jewellery from local brand Balungi. Balungi's creations were made from horn, banana fibre and paper sourced in Uganda.

Lukoma drew inspiration for her Lulu label collection from local culture, using a palette of earthy oranges and browns, and black and blue.

"Kampala is so chaotic that we need to create our own Zen moments, and what better way to do that than drape ourselves in calm, luxurious fabrics that are comfortable and easy to wear," she said.

Lukoma launched Lulu in 2011, but now wants her involvement in the industry to stretch into making a positive impact on development and social consciousness in Africa. "We have more than 80 per cent of our able-bodied youths unemployed in Uganda," said the designer, whose clothes were part of a United States Urban Outfitters African Bazaar pop-up shop last year.

"In our jaajas' (grandmothers) times, most people knew how to sew and took pride in creating replicas of high-quality foreign garments. These skills were not transferred to the next generation because academic skills became more revered."

The fashion do was jointly hosted by the Great Lakes Arts Association, an organisation run by the famous fashion industry bigwigs of Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as LDJ productions -- prime organisers of the New York Fashion Week and Kigali Fashion Week. RwandAir, Kampala Serena Hotel and Mashanyu Media were the main sponsors of the event.