The runway showcase of eight pan-African designers at New York Fashion Week Africa 2015 was responsible for a bright, bold, print-filled success of a day. Inarguably, it proved that fashion is at its best when it tells a story. At this year's presentation, founder Adiat Disu announced that this would be the last runway show for New York Fashion Week Africa, but that's not to say the organization won't be evolving. In a heartfelt speech at the finale of the show, Disu said:
"Water can be used as a liquid, as a gas, or as ice. Nevertheless, it still is water (but just in different form). And our passion for promoting fashion from Africa, is the same. It still remains, but must take on a different form, to fit the maturing appetite of those consuming it. After six years of showcasing, presenting emerging and established designers from Africa, it is time to evolve. So unfortunately, we won't be returning as a runway show, but in other formats. We believe it's more important to focus on retail-driven opportunities, because at the end of the day, that's what sustains these entrepreneurs."
When I asked Disu more about the organization's future plans, she said that the main focus moving forward would be to build a sustainable platform. To do that, retail does seem to be the best option. After all, it takes month upon month to plan for a fashion show, and it can also be quite expensive to pull the whole thing off. Although that one day can do wonders for the visibility of the designers and models involved, it is arguably not the most effective method for providing accessibility to consumers. "Sustainability is not about one person, it's about many people," Disu says. Plus, the folks of NYFW Africa (very understandably) want to leave a legacy.
If you believe in the cause and would like to support the designers, other than attending runway shows, here are four other ways you can do just that.
1. Buy The Designers' Clothes Online
One of the most obvious ways to support a designer is by using your dollars. Brands like Asikere Afana, which showed at New York Fashion Week Africa, have online stores that are really worth checking out. Osei-Duro, another brand that showed, also has an impressive online shop.
It should also be noted that after six years of providing Africa's emerging designers with a platform for showcasing, Adiree (the producers of Africa Fashion Week ) is launching an e-commerce platform to designers called Luxoic.com. The e-commerce platform will curate designers from former Africa Fashion Week shows, in addition to newly discovered talent from emerging countries and provide them a platform to sell their exclusive pieces.
2. Follow Them On Social Media
OK, OK: Sometimes you don't have the money on hand to buy a whole new outfit. That's totally understandable! However, there's really no excuse not to follow these folks on Instagram and other social media sites. As we all know, cultivating a following means the world for up and coming designers nowadays.
3. Shout Them Out Whenever You Can
If you find yourself particularly taken to one specific outfit from a designer's collection (such as this bold red caped number from Dahil Republic of Couture at NYFW Africa), don't keep it to yourself! Share it on social media. Tell your friends about it in real life. Point it out to any bloggers you know. If you think it deserves to be a thing, make it a thing.
4. Support Their Other Shows And Appearances
NYFW Africa is not the only event these designers will be showing collections at throughout their careers. Keep abreast of designers' schedules by checking in on them periodically via the Internet. Many of them post their upcoming shows on their websites or their social media sites, like how Onyii & Co. did above for a pop-up exhibition.
Although New York Fashion Week Africa will not be returning as a runway show, it will include presentations, pop-up shops, and panel discussions, as well as master, trade, and development classes. By keeping the focus on all the talented, radical minds behind the organization, we can help continue the fight towards visibility and inclusivity in fashion.
Images: Antonella Alberti/New York Fashion Week Africa