Inside Look at London's Africa Fashion Week

“African fashion is booming”, reported London newspaper The Metro a day ahead of Africa Fashion Week (AFWL) in London earlier this month. Showcasing the work of 60 designers, the African spectacle took place alongside the Olympics at the heart of the city’s vibrant East End with a wonderfully upbeat atmosphere to match. Jam-packed with style experts and a fashion-forward crowd, as well as the occasional tourist who happened to stumble upon the scene, the show exhibited a unique blend of seasoned and emerging talent to a crowd total of 15,000 people across the various events. Just metres from the runway where models flaunted an array of dynamic collections from across the continent stood dozens of market stalls selling everything from African-print heels and clutches to regional dishes including jollof rice — a clear crowd-pleaser. 

House of Tayo

Ronke Ademiluyi, organizer of the AFWL, said: “We’ve received plenty of positive feedback and the event has had a great impact on the perception of African culture and fashion." “People have begun to bond with the culture instead of shying away from it. A lot of people are now involved in Africa through fashion,” she added. For instance, members of the international fashion elite, including Franca Sozzani, Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney have all been involved in campaigns to promote the growth of the continent’s style sector.

Jimiking Designs

Next year’s Africa Fashion Week in London is set to be bigger than before, according to its organisers, with Vlisco, the textiles manufacturing giant, reportedly interested in becoming an official sponsor. Yet amid fantastic prospects for Africa’s fashion designers, one cannot help but wonder where this industry headed and whether the destination is truly sustainable. The cornerstones of the success of ethical African fashion lie within its ability to make sustainability a mainstream concept. Once dubbed “the hopeless continent” by The Economist in 2000, Africa’s growing fashion industry looks incredibly promising. For more information on AFWL, check out their main website here.



6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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