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Kinshasa's Quest To Be World Fashion Capital

posted 7 Oct 2013, 06:05 by Mpelembe   [ updated 7 Oct 2013, 06:06 ]

Kinshasa hosts the second Congo Fashion Week, showcasing the natural sense of style synonymous with both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville. Organisers hope that the event will put host, Kinshasa on the map of fashion capitals like ParisMilan and London.

 KINSHASA, DR CONGO (OCTOBER 06, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Congo Fashion week brought African art to the catwalks of the Kwuilu bar in Kinshasa at the weekendM in an event organisers hope will build the city's reputation as a fashion destination for the world.

Earthy tones shared the stage with daring ensembles as 14 designers from theDemocratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Congo Brazzaville showcased locally inspired clothes and accessories.

"The goal for us is to have a place on the international scene, like it happens inParisNew YorkMilan , major fashion capitals. Congo fashion week shows thatCongo is making its mark amongst the fashion capitals of the world, and we should try and remain there. The tourism industry brings a lot of money into the country, and we must promote the industry so that the country can have a new cultural image," said organiser, Marie France.

Organisers of the event, now in its second edition want to use fashion to shake off the reputation of poverty and conflict shared by both Congos.

Congolese already known for their flamboyant and colourful style in places likeParis where a large migrant population especially men from Brazzaville in designer suits have earned themselves the label, "sapeurs" -- a play on the French word for "well dressed".

Participants say Congo fashion week, is a good opportunity to sell the region's diverse fashion talents to the world.

"It allows people to see that we are capable of doing ready-to-wear clothes, not only for Africa but also for the West, for the Chinese, for everyone, so we need to learn to integrate our African styles with a touch of modern style in order to share with the whole world. Ideally, we should be able to see everyone dressed in African fabrics, mixed with modern outfits, while remaining true to Africa," said Grace KellyKinshasa based stylist.

But despite a robust Congolese fashion sense, the local market is still nowhere near as successful as the more established South African fashion industry, which makes about 5 billion US dollars every year.

Congo has enjoyed stable economic growth in recent years, with an economy that is expected to expand by 8.2 percent in 2013, but came at bottom of the UN's development index, with 80 percent of the population living on less than 2 US dollars a day in 2011.

Guests to the event spent about 50 US dollars for tickets, and while the price tag locked a vast majority of Congolese, many considered the even a good start for making fashion a viable industry.

"I think we should encourage these designers, we are here to encourage them. At least the world will see that Congo is increasingly making steps towards modernity, because I know that it's happening around the world, in ItalyFrance and so on," said Given Tshilanga, one of the guests.

"What I liked and what I commend them for, is the designers' creativity. We have also seen that the models are young people, they are barely starting their modelling careers, but they are really beautiful. It was very well done," said Tina Salama, another guest.

With the world's established international fashion labels like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel turning to Africa for inspiration, and incorporating the continent's distinct prints into their designs, African influence seems to be the latest fashion trend.

Many African designers hope this era will be their opportunity to place themselves at the centre of the international fashion stage.