Africa Fashion Week London 2016 came and concluded with its renown pomp and grandeur, showcasing 40 designers from across Africa and its Diaspora and over 50 exhibitors – delighting thousands of fashionistas, shoppers, as well as high profile dignitaries including Mrs Oludolapo Osinbajo – wife of the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo.
The BBC World’s Focus on Africa screened a pre-event catwalk show live to its 3 million plus viewers, a day before – setting a backdrop to what was to come in the main shows held on 9 -10 September. Mrs Osinbajo was not only the guest of honour, but she was also at the show to support to Step Up – her charitable initiative which trains women and men with various skills required to start up a small business. The initiative took to the AFWL runaway with Step Up African print bags in conjunction with designer Lady Biba. Also in the house were officials from supporting partners – ONE LAGOS, The Bank of Industry (Nigeria), The Nigerian Export Promotion Council, The Sun Nigeria and The New African Woman.
This year, over 6,000 lovers of African fashion and fashion inspired by Africa descended on London Olympia for the increasingly popular show, which is in its 6th year – three of which have taken place at the famous west London venue. That’s not to say there were not issues…
“Our main challenge this year was the Olympia venue staff. Despite the fact that this was our third year at the Olympia, they were very difficult to work with and made seamless execution of this year’s shows very hard to do, but we did what we had to. We look after so many designers and exhibitors. They come to our platform because of what we can offer, so we had a duty of care to make sure they have the best experience. This year, though, was certainly a challenge.”
Over a thousand attending the last show were left stunned, when the grand finale by headline designer Tanzania’s respected Mustapha Hassanali, was stopped, when venue staff abruptly cut off of power 5 minutes into the highly anticipated show.
But despite what was going on behind the scenes, the African Fashion Week London revellers were in for the usual hefty dose of African splendour.
Back-to-back, both established and up coming designers wowed the jubilant crowd. Starting with the opening show by Didi Creations who lit up the runway in vibrant mustard yellow, red and blue Kaftans, right up to the Hassanali’s final show Mirage collection – an explosion of sequins meet chiffon which stood true to the medical doctor, turned designer’s signature inventive evening gowns, AFWL did what it does best – excite London and Europe at large, with what Africa offers.
The AFWL audience were especially delighted to see menswear take to the stage as a major force this year. Channeling Congo’s Sapeurs and innovative street-wear. Caesar Couture, Niposkin and Sly Monay and London’s Soboye brought the A-game to men’s fashion.
And in a first for the AFWL catwalk, Modest Wear was a feature of Saturday’s show. Bold textiles and exquisite embroidery starred in an innovative collection by The Co-Identity Collection aimed at Islamic women.
“Overall it was a great show, despite the challenges we had with the venue; feedback from designers, exhibitors and the general public has been good, but we know there is room for improvement in the way we protect our staff, guests, designers and exhibitors from negative outside influences,” concedes Ademiluyi.