Morocco Much more to come.
Much more to come.
Fashions and Designers Win World Acclaim
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. As I've learned, in many African societies, the choice of colors 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 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.
Alphadi 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, Alphadi'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.
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.
Sy, Senegal's Queen of
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.
The Fabric of West African
Fashion will Rule!
by Muguette Goufrani
Who would have thought when we launched Africa Travel Magazine 12 years ago, it would become such a popular resource for fashion. Try "Googling" for Africa Travel Fashions or many Africa topic sometime, and you'll notice our website at or near the top. Ditto for Yahoo and MSN. According to Webtrends statistics month after month, we get more hits for fashion than any other topic - which tells us what attracts a growing majority of our readers. The Editor and I wear African attire almost daily at home or away, and we pay close heed to the simple effective ways Africans make a distinct fashion statement. To create a lasting impression and stand out from the humdrum, everyday world, consider kanga and kikoi fabrics in dazzling, eye catching colors.
A kanga is a pure cotton, with a border wide enough to cover you comfortably. It often features a strong, central design or theme, such as fertility signs, mountains, landmarks, soccer stars or popular singers. Many African ladies wear a kanga over their skirts while working in the fi elds in order to control the dust. A kanga is a perfect family gift that is extremely popular throughout Africa thanks to its other option - multiple use as a matching or contrasting head wrap. You may see a Swahili proverb on some kanga that is derived from the words "guinea fowl." Why? Because the original kanga were brightly colored Portuguese handkerchiefs intended for gentlemen traders and offifi cials. Theseitems were then sewn together by Africans to create a piece large enough to be worn head to toe - and called kangas because their brightness reminded Africans of guinea fowl. As village folks say, "kanga nenda na urembo, shani urembo na shani"-"the kanga struts in style. The kanga cloth is a lightweight loose weave fabric, it's versatile and easy to care for.
What's a Kikoi?
The kikoi, woven from the fi nest cotton grown in the region, is a rectangle of pure cotton with a work of art inspired by the vibrant colors of East African Coast. The traditional way of wearing kikoi is simply wrapping it around the lower part of your body and tucking it in at the waist. Inspired by a multitude of colors and shapes, the kikoi are woven in thousands of different
Photos: Top - Zanzibar girls give our ATA delegates a rousing welcome to the Ecotourism Symposium. Above - Esterella of Cameroon. Left ATA delegates from USA wear colorful African garb at 31st World Congress in Accra, Ghana. colors with hand made tassels at the two widths and have become the must have accessories for the beach. In Zanzibar, designers use these two popular options in a variety of ways. For example, in the photo at the top of the page I took while attending an ATA symposium, they carried the theme right through to the sun umbrellas that complimented their attire; What a statement they made in their
welcoming greeting - Jambo Zanzibar! These cloths may have originated with what Arabs traders wore during commerce along the East African Coast. Both varieties make a truly treasurable gift. Cameroon's celebrated designer Esterella makes effective use of the kikoi and kanga in her award winning fashions. We have had the pleasure of seeing on display on our two recent trips to that friendly West African country that's rich in resources and talented entrepreneurs such as Esterella (above left).
Folding Instructions to come.
Textiles from 53 Destinations in Africa and Offshore Islands
amazing! For the past five years, the most popular section
on this web site, according to Webtrends, which charts our
page views day by day, is Africa Travel Fashions. Since
Africa Travel Magazine's editors believe in giving readers
what they want, each new edition of our printed magazine
contains additional pages featuring the colorful clothing,
designers and fabrics of Africa,. In addition, there are
visitors tips on what and where to buy Two years ago at the
huge Merkato Market (the size of several football fields)
and other unique spots in Addis Ababa, we were in Shoppers'
Heaven. The prices were exceptional with our exchange rate
and the variety of items was endless.
Weavers of Dreams
We would need a whole web
site or catalog just to cover fashions, wearable art,
fabrics and shopping venues in Ethiopia, let alone what I've
already experienced in Togo, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco,
Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and various other
destinations we've visited. We're now considering a special
edition of our magazine devoted entirely to African travel
fashions with a gallery of color photos.
Speaking of Ethiopian
Design, attractive, multicolor scarves and shawls are
very popular with visitors. I bought several, one to match
each of 3 separate outfits. Such an array to chose from, and
they take up so little weight and space in your suitcase.
The photo (right) by Robert Eilets of New York, was taken at
Lake Tana. We visited a busy and bountiful outdoor market
there at Bahar Dar, a lakeside resort that is sure to become
a major tourism attraction of the future thanks to its
historic setting and the addition of an attractive new
resort that was nearing completion at the time of our visit
in February 2000. details
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
Our award winning website is
search leader for Africa Fashion on MSN, Google and Yahoo
from 5 million entries.(Feb. 2005)