On Thursday, September 6, 2012, African fashion took center stage at the New York Fashion Week also dubbed Arise Fashion Icon Collective. The show had about 77 designers from all over the world participate including five Africans who took the coveted title to showcase their designs at the show. The established designers who made the cut to represent Africa were British Ghanaian designer Ozwald Boateng, Maki Oh, Tiffany Amber, Gavin Rajah and Tsemaye Binitie.
The show started with a bang with the Africans determined to tell the story of Africa with their creative designs. The runway show was all about glamour, with African prints reworked and updated for the spring season, stunning silk and lace women’s’ wear designs and show stopping, floor-length cocktail dresses – proving what African designers have long been saying – they are more than just their prints, but when they do a print, boy, do they do it well.
The clothes weren’t the only attraction, either. The models transformed the runway, thanks to the range of shades. Black and Asian models stomped down the catwalk in droves, celebrating the different hues of black skin, often under-represented at most shows in the tents.
For those of you who didn’t get a front-row ticket to the Arise show or didn’t make it the show at all, here are the African Icons spring 2013 designers you need to know.
Ozwald Boateng OBE
Long before menswear started to have its moment, Boateng was championing the fit of a good suit. From his Savile Row shop, the British designer of Ghanaian descent, made history as the first black tailor to have a shop on the Row. Over his 25-year career, he’s become the go-to designer for Hollywood and the man on the street who wants to look sharp. Yesterday, Boateng’s collection lit up the runway. It was saved until last and for good reason. His men’s suits, in an array of spring colours, from bright red to canary yellow –showed that the suit can looked playful – and there’s room for it beyond the boardroom. While the selection of double-breasted jackets and macs, which fitted the models perfectly, proved there’s more to the designer than just his trademark suits.
This is what Haute Africa, one fashion website at the event observed about Ozwald “Mr. Boateng put up quite a show last night as he surprised the entire audience with his wax print tailored blazers on the runway…”
Maki Oh With her first New York fashion week show, this 26-year-old Nigerian designer, who is based in Lagos, is already making waves. Featured in the Cut this week, and with a designer of the year gong already in her pocket, not to mention the odd celebrity fan (hello Solange Knowles) Maki Oh is definitely a face to watch for 2013. The designer, whose first career choice was to be a dancer, captivated the runway with designs celebrating the female form and sensuality – think high waisted, knee-length skirts cinched at the waist.
Prints, tassels and textures from red velvet to silk were all about celebrating the Maki Oh woman, who Oh describes as “definitely a strong woman, aware of who she is and where she is coming from.”
Bringing back the glamour…
Tiffany Amber’s mission with her third New York fashion week collection, she says, was to right some fashion wrongs: “African prints have been demystified. It’s gone from haute couture to high street.” So she wanted to bring the glamour back. With her “rhythm of African” collection, the Lagos-based designer did just that. Bold colours and prints (featuring African musicians) dominated the runway; with sheer, floor-length dresses to jumpsuits – perfect for the working woman who is looking for an extra dimension to her daywear.
Haute Africa also wrote this about Amber designs “I like to think of Tiffany Amber as the princess of prints and all things billowy…
This South African born designer brought the fantasy element of fashion back to the runway with creations that were eclectic and high glamour. The models wore metallic visors that resembled crowns, while the dresses in shades of bright prink to gold, dazzled the runway and emulated the Ice Queen in Snow White. The more wearable pieces were a delight, such as the long sleeve, lace, fitted dresses to the knee with gold detailing, which had a vintage feel.
Tsemaye Binitie hails from Nigeria but based in the UK and after stints at Burberry and Stella McCartney, he set about creating his own contemporary women’s wear label. With his sister(who runs the company) as a muse for his designs, the runway show was awash with structures silk dresses, in light spring colours and deep reds, wearable leather trousers and peplum tops.
For more on this, check out www.hauteafrica.com
Photo credit: Haute Africa