The Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) is now Europe’s largest yearly fashion event promoting and nurturing African and African-inspired design talent. The event holds at Covent Garden from August 9 to 10. It is expected that over 100 designers from across the world will be converging on the facility for catwalk, exhibition and business development programmes.
Attending this year’s AFWL from Nigeria is the fashion feast’s grand patron and ambassador plenipotentiary, His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II.
The event will equally attract high networth individuals such as, AFWL’s global ambassador, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, First Lady of Ekiti State and the fashion week’s matron, Mrs Olufolake AbdulRasaq, the First Lady of Kwara State. Also joining in London is Mrs. Modupe Oguntade, wife of Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK.
AFWL was founded in 2011 by Princess Ronke Ademiluyi. In her speech she says: “..for the past nine years, we have consistently employed over 50 BAME catwalk models every year. We further employ over 100 young people every year who work with us as volunteers for backstage runners, dressers, hair and makeup teams, front of house, and administration – giving them vital skills in event management and catwalk and show production.”
The lady, who is Queen Moremi Ambassador, adds, “we have now showcased over 900 designers and exhibitors from Africa and the global diaspora to over 70,000 visitors. We have represented designers from 27 African countries and a further 20 African-inspired designers from countries outside the continent, including France, Holland, USA, Brazil, China, the Caribbean, and, of course, the United Kingdom.”
For her, the fashion feast “is a social enterprise that has led the way in transforming the perception of Africa’s emerging design talent and apparel industry in the international scene.”With a team of experienced fashion experts and business professionals, “we are committed to creating a platform to support African designers while building a sustainable business that is globally recognised and promotes social, environmental and economic change in Africa.”
The AFWL founder reveals that the newly introduced segment — African community leaders on the catwalk — will feature 20 of them who are making impact in London, “allowing them to use fashion to talk about the various challenges faced by African communities in London.”She says, “for the lovers of high-end fashion, the Luxury Boutique, powered by EPG Media, will showcase luxury clothing and accessories from the culturally diverse continent to the European market.”
This year, South Africa’s Vanessa Gounden is the headline designer. The Durban-born Vanessa has taken inspiration for her exceptional designs from her South African heritage and fused it with the traditions of local artisans and the skill that comes from decades of celebrated specialists within the textiles industry to create masterpieces that have inspired hundreds of loyal clients to buy her collections.
She combines original artworks and photography to create highly individual and contemporary prints. Her work is easily distinguished by its meticulous attention to detail and luxurious fabrics. Also signature to the brand and present in every collection is the Vanessa Trench, a coatdress cut with strong classic feminine silhouette.
The designer is renowned for her business savvy and for the role she played in South Africa’s political landscape. She began her career as part of former South African president, Nelson Mandela’s administration in 1994 and also worked with Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, as manager of the Human Resources for the National Intelligence Agency. Her career evolved into a passion for fashion and by the time she launched in London in 2011 under the label “Vanessa G”, Vanessa was already dressing international models like Poppy Delevigne, Jade Jagger, Yasmin le Bon and Natalia Vodianova.
Since then, her wearable-art garments have showcased at several London and New York and South Africa Fashion Weeks. International celebrities such as Princess Charlene of Monaco, Nomzamo Mbatha, Pearl Thusi, Orange is the New Black actress Dascha Polanco and James Bond beauty Naomie Harris have also graced her designs.
Vanessa’s signature style combines bold prints and patterns with innovative tailoring techniques, such as 3D layering. Her work is handcrafted in the finest luxurious fabrics and embellished with hand painted buttons, beading and embroidery. Vanessa designs her work for intelligent, glamorous, spirited women where classic styles endure over trends. Each collection centres on a concept that is close to Vanessa’s heart, the narrative beautifully created on garments with such attention to detail, each piece retains its sense of bespoke individuality.
Vanessa’s Africa Rising collection is an “artistic dedication to the rise of African society from being previously oppressed during colonial occupation to its prosperous rise in the global market”. With a strong sense of citizenship and responsibility, Vanessa is committed to uncover and sponsor new artists as well as train and employ craftsman, tailors and seamstresses in fine skills and pattern matching.
There is also opportunity to browse for African Market Souk for exclusive afro-centric designs or sample cuisines in African Food Village. “With several brands travelling in from overseas to debut collections, those in attendance are guaranteed to purchase several red-carpet-worthy items or unique one-off pieces that will adorn any summer wardrobe,” Ademiluyi says. She continues, “AFWL is fully committed to bringing African fashion to the forefront of the industry. The vibrant and colourful exhibitions are carefully curated to include sustainable and eco fashions. The runway features collections from the Kwa-Zulu Natal Trade and Industry (TIKZN) South African designers who are returning to AFWL for an exclusive catwalk show and luxury exhibition. TIKZN is unique in the fact that they only produce apparel designs with fabrics and embellishments produced in the Natal region of South Africa.”
For the first time, Seychelles Trade and Industry-sponsored designers and models will equally join the catwalk. But beyond the catwalk is the Business Fashion Forum, which is powered by EPG Media. There will be talks and panel sessions from leading manufacturers, retailers and government officials from all areas relating to fashion.
This event offers guidance, advice and valuable industry insight to aspiring designers and creatives. Prizes will be awarded to the best African-inspired outfit. Special guest speakers will include the Mayor of London’s Office, the First Ladies of Ekiti and Kwara states, Queen Diambi of Congo, Department of Trade & Investment South Africa and The Royal Kew Gardens.