African Fashion Week Chicago 2016

African Fashion Week Chicago 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016 Hiral Lloyd-Jones

I was lucky enough to attend African Fashion Week (AFW) Chicago which took place on October 14th - October 16th at Latin Rhythms Academy of Dance Performance in Chicago. AFW in Chicago is in its third year running, so pretty much in its infancy, but the hard work, dedication and professionalism that founder Christianah Ajanaku has put in really spoke for itself.

Christianah Ajanaku  of African Fashion Week Chicago

Christianah has always had a love for fashion and with her African roots she pined for an African Fashion Week here in Chicago, so she took matters into her own hands and put together this wonderful annual fashion event that promotes local and national African talents and businesses. 
Three designers were featured on the first day of AFW, House of Aman, Ruva Afric Wear and Binta Sagale. The designers all having deep African roots coming from diverse backgrounds, and their collections displayed the essence of their origins. House of Aman whose Nigerian roots were apparent in the collection, the designs derived from Nigerian buba and agbabda mens clothing showcased smart contemporary pieces. The Idea behind their style was to bring a touch of traditional to contemporary clothing and vice versa, with the younger generation in mind.

House of Aman

 As for Ruva Afric Wear's Sylvester Ndlovu's designs embodied the essence of Ghana with the use of Ghanaian Kente fabric pattern. At Ruva Afric Wear one can find various different African styles from different cultures within the continent. His collection was a mixture of athletic wear to smart casual street wear. Upon asking him what his next collection is going to look like he was quick to to tease my Kenyan self and informed me that it was inspired from the Masai shuka fabric, I cannot wait to treat myself to one of the designs from that collection.

Sylvester Ndlovu of Ruva Afric Wear in one of his own designs. 

Binta Sagale stole the show with her evening wear, she had a mixture of African and western inspired designs. My favourite from her collection was a white gown with a sheer front with gold embellishments, the back of the dress made one think of sea shell with big overlapping petal shaped panels somewhat making a trail down to the floor. Binta used a lot of cording in her designs and a mixture of fresh white and blacks with bright orange.

Binta Sagale's White and Gold Gown. 

Binta Sagale's White and Gold Gown.
Day two was quite a busy day at the AFW Chicago, it started off with a mini vendor marketplace, with items for sale from Ruva Afric Wear, House of Aman, Ankara Luv, Akese Stylines, Zurik Girl, Omolaso Designs, Ginjah Beer and Afro Sheek. I made a point to get there early to make sure I got the first pick on the merch!
Clutches From Ankara Luv

Her Majeste Stylist Team (Official Hair and Makeup Team For AFW Chicago) Seen Here Taking a Break From Hair and Makeup. 

The night wasn't over yet, we were going to be treated to beautiful designs by five very talented fashion designers. DJ Bonsu played Afro beats to set the scene for the show, the crowd could not resist their dancing feet. First in line was Suzette Opara's 828 Collection. Suzette is a Chicagoan born and raised with Nigerian roots. Suzette is a force to be reckoned with, her gowns have been worn by celebrities like Mary Mary duo Erica and Tina and also at the Oscars by Whoopi Goldberg's daughter Alex Martin. At the show she talked a little bit about her collection and inspiration and she said that while she is inspired by her Nigerian roots she doesn't feel inclined to just African textiles or fashion, her favorite fabric is organza. Her collection consisted of a variety of colors but her evening gowns certainly took my breathe away. My favorites being both her black and gold pieces.

828 Collection Suzette Opara

828 Collection Suzette Opara

Pre show I was able to speak to designer Zielonka Berchie, a very soft spoken guy, the inspiration behind his career is his father. He also introduced me to his fellow friend and designer Eugene Frimpong who took him under his wing. At the show it was evident how Zielonka's work was also inspired by Eugene. Zielonka showcased a mixture of both menswear and womenswear. Gold and black seemed to be the colors of the night, Zielonka's collection was fun and glitzy. It was hard to choose from it all.
Zielonka Berchie Designs

Zielon Berchie Designs

Marie Frances a designer from Haiti who is inspired by nature had a collection full of vibrant pinks and blues. A piece that caught my eye was a cocktail dress made from white and green material from far it looked as though it was an African print with lace on the hemline but up close a totally different feel to it.
Marie Frances' creation

Jennifer Akese Burney of Akese Style Lines, had her collection up and it was a mixture or contemporary designs with kitenge fabric. It was a very vibrant happy upbeat collection that transported me home to Kenya.

Jennifer Akese Burney/ Akese Style Lines

Grand finale featured the designs from Eugene Frimpong of St. Frimpong. His collection showcase started off with a male model wearing a colorful blazer and a fierce masquerade like mask with shimmering antlers, it was as if the African spirit had taken over a Venetian ball! I was interested in why he chose to have the men wear fierce almost beast like masks and the women mask less with very simple looks, his response was that he liked to play around and portray the two against each other. His Favorite look was of a male model wearing a Mohawk meets Lucha Libre like mask with a simple olive green high low collarless buttoned shirt. Mine was the shimmering antlers.

Mohawk Inspired Mask by Eugene Frimpong of St. Frimpong

Jason DaVell's Creation.
Seen at the show was designer Jason DaVell with a friend wearing his creation, the gorgeous boots she was wearing were Jason's creation, they were made in honor of Balenciaga. Although he was not showing his collection at the show, just seeing his creation was like the icing on top.
I hope to see you at AFW Chicago next year! I don't know if I can wait till next year!
Photographs in this article were courtesy of Leke Photography. Thank you Isaac Adeleke for these beautiful Shots.

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