Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo hosts its first ever Congo fashion week, where 12 local designers and from the Diaspora showcased the season's newest collections.
KINSHASA, DR CONGO (SEPTEMBER 23, 2012) (REUTERS) -Models and designers make a last minute rush to get clothes, accessories and make-up just right for the 2012 Congo Fashion Week.
African designers recently got a rare opportunity to display their latest creations at DR Congo's first ever Fashion Week, held in Kinshasa on September 22 and 23.
Event organizers said they wanted to promote Congolese fashion, talent and culture and market it both at home and abroad.
Twelve local designers exhibited their best work to the show while many other African designers like Eric Kanga, whose work is poplar in neighbouring Republic of Congo, also came to present his collections at the event.
"That one has a button that looks like this. Here you have pockets that can be removed like so and it's a different design. And here at the back, you also have a different design," said Kanga, showing one of his outfits.
"All this talent that we have here is slowly taking off, and more and more designers can express themselves through fashion. I think that Africa has progressed when it comes to fashion," he added.
The event gave many upcoming designers and models a chance to meet prospective clients and exchange ideas on how to grow their careers.
Though still in its early stages, organizers hope it can make a significant contribution towards growth of fashion in the region and also push designers to explore new ideas.
"We have a lot of talent here, but we need a platform where local designers can exchange with international designers, and I know that the exchange has always been a source of development. We need designers who not only will be inspired by what they see here at home, but they can also gain inspiration from outside, because I think making designs out of the traditional West Africa "Boubou" design would really be nice. It's like here where you can find European fabrics, which can be mixed with African print fabrics. It's this kind of exchange that allows events like fashion week," said Marie France the founder, of DR Congo's Fashion Week.
From beaded designs and creations that incorporated recycled materials fashion enthusiasts sampled a wide variety of African inspired clothes and accessories.
"I found it (Fashion week) very interesting with a lot to offer, and it is pretty and creative," said Jennifer Djamboleka, a guest at the event.
"I think if we have more events like this, it will help attract more people, because not everyone is into fashion. Not Verne dresses appropriately, but if there are regular fashion shows, everyone will learn what's on trend and will dress appropriately," added Kezi Willys who also came to see the show.
Though there is a strong taste for local fashion in Congo the sector still has a long way to go to reach the levels of more established industries like South Africa, which makes about 5 billion US dollars every year.
Congo has enjoyed stable economic growth in recent years but last year came bottom of the UN's development index, with 80 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day.
At the end of the fashion extravaganza, visitors were treated to a performance by one of Africa's biggest stars - Congolese artist, Papa Wemba.
Known as the king of rumba rock, Wemba is also credited with influencing some fashion trends in the country, during his career.
The Congo Fashion week will be held annually and organizers say they plan to hold an even bigger edition next year.