Black Fashion Week Prague was held in November of last year; almost 12 months later, the first Black Fashion Week Paris was staged, on the heels of Paris Fashion Week. The creator of the event, Adama Ndiaye, designer of the Adama Paris brand, had staged Dakar Fashion Week for over a decade and the Africa Fashion Awards in 2010.
The event began on October 4th in Buddha Bar on Rue Boissy d’Anglas and was graced by prominent personalities of African and French origin, including former football star Marcel Desailly, activist Samira Ibrahim, journalist Ahmed El Keiy, singer Singuila, performer Colonel Reyel, and personalities Afida Turner and Vincent Mc Doom.
The fashion shows were held on October 5th and 6th at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines near Opera Garnier. Musician and Tourism and Culture Minister of Senegal Youssou N'Dour was the guest of honour.
Adama Paris was the first to show. The collection consisted of mid-thigh black dresses made of bazin fabric. Sleeves looked like crumpled pieces of paper and utilized a technique similar to froissage. Each ensemble hugged the torso and showcased several ample behinds. Gele headwraps, also made of bazin, were worn by each model. The overall look, however, was not particularly “African”; the dresses were mostly knee or above-the-knee length, with the tiniest slits for tottering on high heels, and displayed cleavage. The focus was on the womanly form: confidence and liberation were the spirit. Sleeves looked like slight wings of a woman about to take flight.
Mame Fagueye Ba’s collection was focused on formal gowns in voluminous taffeta, and graphic collage dresses with hanging strips of fabric. “This an opportunity to showcase my culture through my fashion, but the influences of my designs and my goals don’t end there. It is one way to show through a fashion week as there are closed doors in other fashion weeks. Who is representing Africa today?” said Fagueye Ba after the show.
The collection had a particularly obvious African reference, with large patches of African textile used as belts and for entire ensembles. Some dresses in particular referenced formal ceremonies, and accessories included neck pieces made of leather, pins and bone, and others with stones from the continent.
New York-based designer LaQuan Smith’s collection included metallic details in reflective strips, a cropped neoprene top and sporty mesh ensembles. Mini skirts included a parachute-shape with string for adjusting the amount of poof, and neon-coloured plastic pleated mini rainskirts. “There is a youthful and sexy feel in this collection,” he said. The sexy feel also felt playful where giant gold stars covered nipples while its matching skirt, short at the front, had a billowing train at the back. A black mesh bodysuit with gold sparkles added to the playfulness and rounded off the collection’s air of merriment.
Asian designer for the men’s label J.Chiekh, Sophie Lin, also shows in New York. “Many people think that this event is excluding a lot of people, but I’m proof that it isn’t.” J.Chiekh showed suits in black, grey and navy with a metallic sheen and leather-trimmed lapels. More casual ensembles consisted of baggy silhouettes in both pants and tshirts and leather-trimmed twill jackets. While the collection spoke of an obvious ease, down to the models’ hands-in-pockets struts, it lacked a center to unite the suits’ cleaner lines, the loose silhouettes and leather-laden jackets.
Sophie Nginza Sy’s collection was composed of ease and elegance. A long white skirt with box pleats was made of handwoven pagné tissé, a traditional cotton from Mali with patterns from certain ethnic groups in West Africa, originally used for funeral rites and now widely used in furniture and home accessory coverings. It was paired with a simple white beaded tshirt; the ensemble reeked of a understated luxury. An orange and white batwing-sleeved dress, and cropped trousers paired with a simple tailored jacket were day-to-night chic. The designer aims to create clothes that unites a lifestyle of business meetings in New York with affairs in Lagos and vacations around the globe.
“Black Fashion Week is a movement,” nodded Ndiaye. “But it isn’t segregated nor seperatist. It’s just like saying ‘Black Music’. It’s for everybody.”
Smith added: “You don’t really see black designers on the same level as a Christian Dior or a Balenciaga. For this event to be created and curated is a great thing but it’s not just about being black. It’s about people of various ethnicities: Black, Asian, Indian. It’s about appreciating the fact that there are creatives other than Caucasians.”
Other brands who were part of Black Fashion Week Paris were Jamila Lafqir and Karim Tassi from Morocco, Olivier Couturier from Martinique, Martial Tapolo from Cameroon, Alphadi from Nigeria, Mariah Bocoum from Mali, Zacometi from Haiti, Thula Sindi from South Africa, Elie Kuame from the Ivory Coast and Lebanon, and Soucha from Tunisia and Egypt.
Black Fashion Week’s next stop is Brazil, in November of 2013.
- Ria de Borja