A string of Africa-themed fashion shows have saturated 2011, and now the train moves to one of the most recognized and consistent platforms - Africa Fashion Week, Johannesburg. While Nigeria (Lagos in particular) is hot on South Africa's heels vying for the title of fashion capital, South Africa clearly has a significant early lead. As Helen Jennings, editor of Arise Magazine put it in a recent iFashion interview, 'South Africa is at the forefront of African Fashion - it has the most developed industry, media and market on the continent without a doubt'. With the facts out of the way, here's what most excites us about this year's edition:
i) How to Campaign: Seen above and below, the images that define this year's Africa Fashion Week campaigns are by far the most exciting we've seen. Africa Fashion Week has clearly come of age as the premier fashion gathering on the continent. Beyond the images, however, the flow of information from African Fashion International (AFI, the producers of Africa Fashion Week) has been constant and timely, especially on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Communication is the heart and soul of any brand, and AFI gets top marks for their effort.
ii) The Revolution Will be Televized: Or at least live-streamed. With the rise in instant gratification provided by live streams on sites such as nowfashion.com and everything from live tweets to instagram adding to the fashion frenzy, more efforts are being made to connect the rest of the world in real-time. This year, Africa Fashion Week takes the bold step of streaming shows live, taking a cue from Capetown Fashion Week's efforts earlier in the year. In addition, photos will be made online almost immediately after the shows as has been the norm. A mighty good start, if you ask us. Watch with us here.
iii) Wide Spread: This is perhaps the most excited we've ever been, and may it may have a thing to do with the diversity of the line-up - Gloria Wavamunno for Uganda, Alexander Koutny for the South African diaspora, Madam Wokie for Sierra Leone, etc. While it's always good to see familiar and established names, the focus on young, varied talent is especially thrilling this year - the Maki Ohs of this world have shown remarkable promise and will certainly define and direct the creative explosion in, around, and beyond the continent. Read the designers' profiles here.
iv) Trade before Aid: Much ado has been made about trade within and with Africa, and the 'business of fashion' is finally being thrown up as a serious possibility. Fashion shows are good, but what's a spectacular show without a guaranteed stream of sales and revenue for our fashion entrepreneurs? If we want more folks to 'Buy African', more stores need to 'Stock African' offline and online. As part of Africa Fashion Week, the inaugural Africa Fashion Trade Expo will take place on October 20, 2011, and highlights will include the AFI Fashion Business Seminar, where panelists like Ozwald Boateng (yes, in the flesh!) and Bunmi Koko's Francis Udom will shed some light on their experiences.
v. Well Done: This year's awards recognize everyone from South Africa's David Tlale (who has had a brilliant year consisting of a 92-models strong show on Nelson Mandela bridge, a store opening in one of South Africa's luxury fashion complexes, and a Volvo collaboration) who's up for Designer of the Year (Africa), to Haute Fashion Africa who earned a nod for Communicator of the Year for the consistency and breadth of their coverage, and Anita Quansah, who has positively exploded in 2011, most notably through the accessory label's presence in several shows, collaborations with leading labels like Jewel by Lisa, and availability in Lagos-based luxury boutique, Temple Muse. While there were some glaring omissions and questionable additions, it's still exciting to see several of Africa's best and brightest celebrated. Vanity Fair's Michael Roberts will be on the panel of judges. See the full list of nominees here.
We'll be watching it all go down tonight via the live stream. See you there? Stay tuned for Shop Liquorice's take on the shows and awards from today until the 22nd of October. We'll probably tweet a thing or two as well.
For more information, visit: http://www.afisa.co.za/?page_id=251
All images courtesy of African Fashion International