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First ever "Black Fashion Week" dazzles Paris

posted 8 Oct 2012, 08:06 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Oct 2012, 08:07 ]

Top African designers take their latest collections to Paris for the first ever "Black Fashion Week".

 PARISFRANCE (OCTOBER 05, 2012) (REUTERS) - Moments before showtime, make up artists, hairdressers and fashion designers rush to put the final touches on models backstage at the "Black Fashion Week".

The first of it's kind, the "Black Fashion Week" brought together around 15 designers from Africa, as well as the diaspora to showcase their latest collections in the fashion capital, Paris.

On the heels of the prestigious Paris Fashion week, which saw French Couture giants such as Christian DiorYves Saint Laurent and Chanel battle it out on the catwalk, Black Fashion Week was aimed at celebrating the best fashion talents from Africa.

Behind the initiative is Senegalese born French fashion designer, Adama Ndiaye, also known as Adama Paris.

Ndiaye said she was motivated by the lack of African representation in the highly competitive fashion industry, and wanted a place to promote and give exposure to African designers.

Although Ndiaye received criticism for labelling the event "black", she stressed that the label "black fashion" refers to a movement rather than the colour of skin.

"Some people thought that I should call it "Africa Fashion week", but no!. Not all black people are Africans, for me it is a movement, it is not about color and unfortunately we don't have enough black faces in the fashion industry. I'm not satisfied, the ParisFashion week that just ended did not have a single black designer and it doesn't shock anyone," she said.

Asked why the premier of the fashion event was in Paris, Ndiaye said the venue gave African designers one of the best known fashion platforms in the world.

"Paris is the capital of fashion, and my name is Adama ParisParis has a specific flavour for people in the fashion industry, because France was one of the main colonial powers, so most of the black French people (in Africa) have a link to Paris, so yes, Parisrepresents a huge step for us," said Paris.

Ndiaye added that Black Fashion Week not only gives the opportunity for black models, it also allows up-and-coming fashion designers such as African-American designer,Laquan Smith, who despite dressing clients like pop singer, Rihanna and Lady Gaga is not yet internationally well known.

"This is my first time showing my collection in Paris and this is again, it's a dream come true and it is something that I always wanted and I think that this is such a fantastic opportunity. I am so happy to be a part of it," Laquan said.

Ndiaye has become an influential voice in the fashion industry on the African continent, and is behind the annual Dakar Fashion Week in her native Senegal, which attracts designers from across the continent.

"Fashion is really important for us, it can also be considered as an art form, and I also came to support a woman who does a lot for SenegalAdama Paris," said Senegalese singer and Minister of Culture, Youssou N'Dour, a guest of honour at the fashion show.

On a continent where the fashion industry is still struggling to make its mark, guests at the Black Fashion Week say that events like these will go a long way to give African designers more prominence.

"I think that there is finally progress, it's been a long time coming. But there is still a lot of work to do, there is still a long road ahead. But we are here, we have a lot to give and we must believe in ourselves," said one guest, Astou Samake.

"It's a pleasure to see the mix of different fabrics and textures. It was a beautiful atmosphere, beautiful crowd and beautiful presentation from each of the designers. And for the first Black Fashion Week Made in Paris, I take my hat off to the designers," added another guest Amira.

Ndiaye is scheduled to hold the next Black Fashion Week in Montreal, Canada in November, as well as Salvador de BahiaBrazil in March 2013.