August 22, 2019
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African creativity flows at Dakar Fashion Week

By María Rodríguez

Dakar, Jun 9 (efe-epa).- Beyond inspiring fashion on other continents, Africa has its own designers who have been able to show off their creativity in the Senegalese capital at the Dakar Fashion Week.

When Adama Paris, a Senegalese designer who showcases African fashion on the runway and in stores in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, landed in Dakar at the age of 22, she was surprised to find her country didn’t hold a fashion week.

The designer, who has on several occasions been considered one of Africa’s most influential women, was born in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and studied in France.

“As I had come from France I was surprised there wasn’t a Fashion Week in Dakar like there are in Paris and in other places and I said to myself ‘I’m going to create it,’” she told Efe.

And after 17 years, the event has become a success.

Every year, African designers descend on Dakar, coming from countries all over the continent and other parts of the world to present their latest creations.

AFRICAN FASHION CANNOT BE DEFINED

“African fashion is fashion created by Africans. It doesn’t matter if its an evening dress or a tunic. It’s the fashion that Africans want to create,” Paris said.

African fashion cannot be defined, according to Paris. “Africa is a continent that is bigger than Europe, not one country.

“We don’t talk about European fashion, we talk about Spanish, or Italian. Why don’t we talk about Senegalese fashion or Ivorian?” the designer asked.

At the Pullman hotel in Dakar's central Independence Square, the work of eight designers from different African countries were presented to an audience, who digested the shows with interest and curiosity.

From June 5-9, the clothes of about 30 designers from Congo, Niger, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya and Morocco, among others, were presented in the Senegalese capital.

“African fashion is not necessarily what Europe thinks,” Paris said, referring to stereotypes and reflecting on what is and what isn’t considered African fashion.

PRIORITIZING AFRICAN CREATORS

The runway has changed over the years.

In the beginning, designers from all over the world were invited, but in the last 10 years, although nobody is excluded, African designers are given priority as a way of helping those who are just starting their careers.

This year saw some new faces, including Senegalese designer Maison Ramatoulaye Diop and Simone & Elise, two Ivorian designers.

As they got ready to present their clothes to the public, the Ivorian pair told Efe their creations represent African women as a whole, the ones who go to the market, into politics, those who go out to feed their families.

They said their brand pays homage to Marie-Thérèse Houphoët-Boigny, the wife of the first Ivorian president, a woman they described as “strong” and “elegant,” who “had nothing to envy of Jacqueline Kennedy or other icons of fashion.”

They have even created a dress called La Thérèse.

TWICE AS HARD

Congolese designer Liputa Swagga told the press that it is twice as hard being African and even more so when you’re a woman.

But Dakar Fashion Week is an opportunity to celebrate black beauty and the empowerment of black women, according to Paris.

“There are girls who ask me how I make money, if I’m married and if my husband is rich. I tell them to get some training, believe in their chances as women,” said the designer, who has set an example for many youths.

“I tell them they can be like me, work, earn money and above all get other women into work,” she added.

Besides founding Dakar Fashion Week, in 2010 she set up Black Fashion Week in various countries around the world, and in 2014 launched the Fashion Africa Channel, which is 100 percent dedicated to fashion.

The event collaborates with and has events taking place in high-end places in Dakar because for its founder, it’s important to show “beautiful Africa.”

“In Europe there’s a tendency to come here and show poverty. I, as a Senegalese person, aim to sell the best of Senegal.” EFE-EPA

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