Upbeat Swing For Africa Fashion Week London 2015
All is now set for the 2015 Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) billed to open on Friday August 7, in London, United Kingdom. Created by Ronke Ademiluyi, the event, which wraps on Saturday, August 8, is Europe’s largest catwalk event of African and African-inspired design. And being the 5th anniversary edition, this year’s show will be transforming London Olympia West Hall into a stunning showcase of African-inspired design.
Highlighting a unique fashion-forward catwalk collective; daily eye-catching runway shows and vibrant exhibitions, the two-day event will bring together fashionistas and industry professionals from around the world to a feast of African style.
The event will parade talented designers such as Taiwanese AimeeKu, who is flying the flag for African-inspired fashion in her native Taipei City. The ever-glamorous event will also welcome back the favourites of the 2014 catwalk, including Nigerian designer Needlepoint. Mary Martin, winner of the Mercedes Benz Best Designer in Africa is also expected to make a bow on the 2015 AFWL runway.
Ahead of he fashion show, which will provide networking opportunity for stakeholders in African fashion, the organisers have since unveiled Scottish-born-Ugandan Maggies Smith as the Face of Africa Fashion Week London 2015. Joining the stellar line-up this year are Brand Ambassadors Victoria Michaels and international model Noella Musunka Couris.
Speaking at a media briefing held recently at their Lagos office to unveil 2015 programme, founder of the fashion show Ronke Ademuluyi informed that the event would see styles and fabrics from different African countries and beyond.
“It’s our fifth anniversary and we have designers from all parts of Africa coming; from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and others. However, the most amazing thing is that we have designer, who are not even Africans attending this event. For instance, we have designers coming in from Hong Kong, Taiwan… they are all coming to be part of the fifth edition of the Africa Fashion Week London,” she said.
A trained lawyer, Ronke was born in London to a scion of the royal family in Ife Kingdom in the South Western Nigeria. A rare combination of beauty and brains, the CEO of Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) and Africa fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN) is on a mission to increase the visibility and awareness of African designers by providing them with an affordable global showcasing platform.
Recalling how the initiative started some five years ago, Ronke said, “London is like a second home to me because I grew up in London. So, I call it my second home. Reaching out to people wasn’t a challenge, but people actually accepting an African Fashion Week in London was a major issue. When we started, we were very skeptic, so we were like, ‘ok, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
Determined to make the best out of the project, Ronke and her team set the ball rolling in 2015, with the dream of building an international fashion platform.
“We put all we had into it. We started off thinking we would only a few hundreds of people attend, so, the venue we got could only accommodate like 800 people. But to our amazement, over the two days, we had like 4500 people attend. That alone showed us that there was a demand for this event in London. At that time, the world was beginning to accept African fashion; a lot of western international designers were incorporating African prints and fabrics into their own designs,” she noted.
Though with a legal background, Ronke has always played within the fashion space. Right from her days at the Thames Valley University in London, she was styling her friends and selling outfits to them. By 2001 when she eventually moved back home, her first business idea was a boutique.
“I opened my first boutique in Lagos called Rukkies and we were selling western clothes. Eventually, we had four boutiques across Lagos; we had one in Surulere, two in Ikeja and one in Lagos Island. But In 2011, I just got tired of promoting western fashion and decided to go African. That’s why we developed Africa Fashion Week in London,” she said.
AFWL today is at the forefront of capturing the surge of the African inspired trends in the fashion industry. The yearly event aims to celebrate the work of African and African inspired designers in the UK and worldwide. Since inception in 2011, the show has hosted catwalk events with over 300 designers to almost 45,000 visitors and contributed expertise to at least 10 more events produced by 3rd parties such as The Mayor of London’s Black History Month celebrations and the annual Africa Centre Summer Festival.
“It has gone very well so far because our platform acts as a springboard for a lot of designers, especially young designers, who cant afford to launch on an a big platform. They use our platform to launch themselves into the fashion industry, so, for them; it’s a platform that is needed,” Ademiluyi said.
Beyond the glitz and razzmatazz, “this is about building talents and encouraging them to be able to sustain themselves from what they do. We do seminars that teach them the business side of fashion; we teach them how to price things. We also educate them on how to take advantage of the rising middle class to do pieces that they can afford, instead of competing with the big brand,” she said.
While calling on the Nigerian government to support the fashion industry, AFWL founder informed that, “we have a country that is sponsoring 20 young designers to come and showcase at the event; we have another country that is sending eight of their young designers to come and showcase their work. I think the government needs to support the designers by sending them to trade show. Most of these designers make their things in Nigeria, so, it’s a channel for export; it would boost the economy.”
To Ademiluyi, the fashion industry in Nigeria has become a major employer of labour, thereby helping to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
“A lot of young people are now going into fashion because they know that, at least, if they make one or two outfits, they would eat from it. So, we need to support and promote them because, for creativity to grow, there needs to be a platform that supports it. We are the platform that supports African and Nigerian fashion,” she hinted.
As a global event for the African community, AFWL is not only committed to showcasing African fashion, but it also promotes cultural singularities within the African fashion community. Therefore, the event covers country-specific market insights and needs, with national dedicated areas: the Country Pavillions. This space will gather a number of countries so that visitors interested in a specific territory can directly collect information, study designs and interact directly.
Sponsors for this year’s show are Motion Hair, Travelfix.Co, Da Viva and other supporters.
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