Borris Powell fashion

Fashion Without Borders Benefit!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 Hiral Lloyd-Jones

Fashion Without Borders, a benefit by the Pan African Association was held last Thursday 20th April at The Ivy Room in Chicago and was a great success. Pan African Association helps empower and promote integration of refugees, asylees and immigrants from Africa and beyond, here in Chicago. This was their second annual show and it was a hit! I was lucky enough to have been able to go and experience it for myself. 

It was a very engaging night for all who attended. The staff for the show were either past clients who stayed on to volunteer their services, present clients who are currently getting help from PAA or individuals who had a connection to the countries from which the migrants originate from. Everyone had a story to tell about their experiences and how they made their way here, upon asking if they are living the American dream they dreamt to live their answers are much the same, "yes we love it and we love the people but not the winters."
The night began with a silent auction where guests could view an array of items and experiences from art, food, spa experiences to vacation packages. Guests were able to bid on their smartphones using the app Handbid.

Brett Walkow
 The event was emceed by comedian Brett Walkow who has made appearances on the Tonight Show and The Golden Globes. The keynote speakers were PAA's past clients who continue to volunteer and inspire everyone around them, Espoire Habimana and Vastinava Nyiraguhirna.

Espoire Habimana second from left with some of the PAA crew. 

Espoire, orignally from D.R. Congo, shared his experiences of how he overcame challenges at a young age. At 10 yrs old, in 2004 he and his family were forced to flee his home to escape from the civil war. They crossed the border into neighboring Burundi and just months after arriving to the refugee camp they were faced with more violence and lost some of his family members in the
Gatumba Massacre. Espoire did not let tragedy overtake his life he fought through it all and after three years of living at the camp in Burundi he and his family were resettled in Chicago in 2007. With the help of PAA Espoire was able to pursue his education and now he works full time for the Pan African Association, as he wants to help others like him. In his speech he said he did not want anyone to feel sorry for him but instead he wanted people to treat him and give him the same opportunities that anyone else would have.

Vastinava Nyiraguhirna with two little models wearing Omolaso Designs.

Vastinava Nyiraguhirna is from D.R. Congo as well who fled from her country in 2007 with her late husband and seven children to a refugee camp in Uganda. Vastina was very bubbly, although she had been through a lot in life she addressed everyone with a smile and she poked fun at some of her experiences. One such experience was when after a 7 year wait to be relocated to the United States, she was not feeling so well and was told she and her family were granted permission to enter the U.S. she had a heart attack and the news nearly killed her. She just could not believe that her prayers had been answered. Vastina is an active participant in the case management and health & wellness programs, attending monthly workshops and the women's support group.

Prince Malonga, Master Drummer
The Entertainment for the night was provided by Prince Malonga, Master Drummer and his group Beto Bantu (We are people). Prince Malonga originally from Brazzaville, Congo took up percussion actively at the age of 14. In 2002 he moved to Cameroon to pursue a career as a drummer and by 2006 he had formed a famous group Ma Nkoussou International.

Little Models in Omolaso Designs

Models wearing Omolaso Designs

The fashion show was the main event and was a resounding success. The show stoppers were definitely the kids modeling designs from Omolaso Designs, by Kunbi Oyedele. Nigerian born Kunbi was driven to create Omolaso Designs out of a void for African inspired ready to wear clothing for children. Her line caters for children 18 months to 6 years of age. Omolaso Designs combine bold and vibrant African prints with modern design styles.

Models in outfits by Ilava

Model wearing a piece by Ilava 

Tanzanian born sisters Rahel Mwitula Williams and Mwasi Mwitula founders of Ilava aim to incorporate East African culture into fashion and they want to promote African fashion through their designs.

Gorgeous African inspired gown by Akese Stylines

Akese Stylines 
Ghanaian by birth Jennifer Akese Burney the creator of Akese Stylines, which has been featured recently at Ankara Miami 2017, WWD magazine in 2015 and ABC 7 Black Fashion Week 2015 to name a few brings a unique take on African prints onto western styles.

Stunning black dress by Borris Powell 

Borris Powell Design

Borris Powell Design
Oscars Designers Challenge 2011 winner Borris Powell's designs were absolutely chique! He wowed the audience with his high-end silhouettes. Born in Alabama he moved to Chicago in 1997 to follow his dream of a career in fashion. His designs were exquisite, tailored with such precision and thought. He also showcased his line of handbags which were classy and designed not just for their look but also practicality. My favorite was his suede lined handbag pictured below.

Borris Powell Handbag 
The Pan African Association welcomes volunteers and donations of any amount. If you wish to donate you may do so either in person or via their website :

Pictures by Nancy Valladolid Photography

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