May, 23 2013


South Africa

Gone are the days of picturing African fashion as large, colorful wrap dresses with matching turbans. As modern African designers are becoming key players in the international fashion scene and African influence pops up all over the international fashion world, we witness the birth of the African catwalk.

This past October marked the third annual Africa Fashion Week. Held in the continent’s undisputed fashion capital, South Africa, it featured the collections of thirty designers, including Nigerian-American Lola Fauroti, Alexander Koutny, and Somalian-born New York residents Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim’s Mataano. Judges included Vanity Fair fashion director Michael Roberts, ARISE magazine editor Helen Jennings, and Design for Africa founding member Shaun Borstrock.

The three-day event took place in Johannesburg, coinciding with the Africa Fashion Trade Expo to connect local suppliers with purchasers from around the globe. The finale was the Africa Fashion Awards, which recognized local designers, international designers, and models of African descent, and those who promote African fashion. Among those in attendance were award winners Ozwalk Boateng (International Designer of the Year), Vogue Italia editor-at-large Bethann Hardison, local designer Maki Oh, and international runway model Ajuma Nasenyana.

During the past two years, African prints have been featured in collections of top international labels Diane von Furstenburg, Paul Smith, Donna Karen, L.A.M.B., Kenzo, Gucci, Paul Smith, Burburry Prorsum, and many more. In fact, the fashion world has been so enamored with the sub-Saharan continent that Africa Fashion Week New York and Africa Fashion Week London were introduced, with rumors of Africa Fashion Week Paris in the works as well.

Despite the overwhelming majority of Caucasian models, Africans have become prominent on the international runway and fashion covers. Ethiopian Liya Kebde is the face of L’Oreal and one of the highest paid models in the world. In addition, she is the World Health Organization’s Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. Kenyan Ajuma Nasenyana is one of the most-desired runway models, only missing in a top designer show when another had booked her sooner. Oluchi Onweagnba, from Nigeria, is not only a favorite Victoria’s Secret Angel, but a role model and mentor to the young models at her own agency in South Africa. Not only are these women beautiful on the outside, their inner beauty shines through philanthropy.

Just because you’re leaving your gowns and high heels behind in China doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a couple of extra outfits on your way home! So make sure you bring your international credit cards (Chinese credit cards are not accepted) and make time to shop till you drop.

Find out more about African Fashion Week here ( The top award for Best African Designer went to Jewel by Lisa, check out her website here (