Africa Fashion International (AFI) fashion week celebrated African Fashion Unites for their spring/summer 2020, and Blacklight spoke to a few celebrities at the opening event about how fashion can unify Africa.
By: Mokgadi G Letsoalo
Every African event should start with a red carpet parade, especially if one of the main topics encourages Africans to work towards making the African continent respected for its indisputable beautiful heritage.
At this year’s AFI spring/ summer 2020 opening night, held at the Sandton Conventional Center, Johannesburg, we spoke to a few influential people, and this is how they believe Africans could show unity through fashion.
Gavin Rajah (Fashion Designer)
Blacklight: we are under the banner African Fashion Unites, what does that mean in promoting African fashion?
Rajah: I am one of the coaches here tonight and I think that Africa unite is really about bringing a collective voice which is improving and positive, also to uplift the continent as a whole.
I think we have gone through a period of self loading, criticism on one other, violence against one another and tonight we are using fashion as a language to try make sure that people understand that’s not what we want to be as a continent. It’s not the perception we want to create, nor the message we want to put out there. So tonight fashion is being used to show what exactly this continent is about.
Blacklight: How are we going to make sure that it is sustainable?
R: Through proper practice and repetition of that practice, to entrench the message. We can’t do it once off, we have to keep on showcasing work that sends a positive message, has amazing stories behind it, in terms of how it’s been created. Also improves local designers and communities where they come from. Then there’s a way to create a sustainable vision for the future.
Blacklight: How would you encourage upcoming African designers or anyone in the fashion industry to unite?
R: I am not interested in influencers because I think life is more than just a tweet, it’s a call to action, if you can’t act , then your tweet means nothing. We want people to act, we want people to be able to say these are the tools you need to use to impact. Not use your visibility to gain more visibility or gain likes. What you are there to do is to change the message about Africa and it’s people.
Rina Chunga Kutama – Rich Factory (Fashion designer)
Blacklight: What are you taking out of this African Fashion Unite Banner?
Kutama: I have mixed heritage already, I am Zambian born, my mother is South African and I grew up in Botswana. So already I am very much a Pan African. I am glad to see they are bringing in more African designers from across the continent, not just local so that we can actually stand under one banner and support each other, especially in light of the recent xenophobic attacks. It is important for us to show unity and show love. At the end of the day we all have the same art, so I am pretty happy about it.
Blacklight: As an African designer, what message do you want to continue penetrating into the fashion industry?
K: what I am passionate about is African conservation through fashion. So I already speak the language, when you see me and I am wearing an African print, you know that I am proud of my heritage. I want to give people a constant reminder that this is who we are, this is our continent. Let’s tell our stories, let’s not let anyone tell us that we are not good enough. We have the fabrics that our grandmothers used as a tool.
Blacklight: What can we expect from Rich Factory’s latest collection?
K: If you follow me, you would know that I am very much a spiritual person. My spirituality and my happiness is going to show so much in this collection.
Zandile Msutwana – Actress
Blacklight: How do you express yourself as an African artist through fashion?
Zandile: Your roots are your African way of expressing yourself. I am a Xhosa woman and I think I have shown that in many ways and I have attended a lot of events wearing my Xhosa regalia.
As artists, we need to be consistent with that and I have been consistent even with every designer that I have used. I have always worn the South African designer Lindo Mnguni @lindomnguni.
Blacklight: Do you think the shift into expressing African Fashion is transporting a relevant message to the Fashion Industry?
Z: Oh absolutely, it is shifting and needs to be consistent though – we can’t dilly dally, we need to be confident with who we are.
Blacklight: Which designer are you most looking forward to seeing?
Z: I am excited to see David Tlale, who has always been somebody I have admired from afar and someone that has supported me when I first started in the industry. He dressed me even though he didn’t know who I was. I am rooting for him and everyone showcasing this week.
Zozobini Tunzi – Miss SA
Blacklight: You are an advocate of everything African, you represent it, please tell me what does African Fashion reflect today?
Z: The arts for me has always had a way of bringing people together, whether it’s fashion, music and everything that it is. For me, today means that we can be able to unite and come together. South Africa has been going through a lot of xenophobic attacks, we have been having African countries fighting amongst themselves so this for me today means we can come together and celebrate Fashion and art together.
Oseloka Holiday Mbadiwe – Nigerian media personality
Blacklight: What is the important tool of African Fashion in today’s society?
Mbadiwe: I think in Africa we have many languages that we communicate with to the world. by communicate, I mean we use it to show the potential that Africa has, whether it be our natural resources, tourism and in this case fashion.
African Fashion represents Africa in the sense that it’s very colourful, very bold and confident, which is what Africa stands for. Everyone knows about the recent problems that have been happening in Africa, so this is the opportunity to show the unity in Africa, a few bad eggs can’t spoil the entire crate. I came all the way from Nigeria to South Africa for this and some of my contemporaries from East Africa and other parts of West Africa are all here to show that we all stand together.
Blacklight: Which designers are you looking forward to seeing?
M: I am looking forward to seeing everyone. I am the type of person that literally takes tiny bits from everybody. This is going to sound bias but I am also looking forward to seeing David and Mai Atafo. I know Mai Atafo personally and I think he is fantastic but I’m really looking forward to seeing what David has to offer as well as everybody else.
Ozee Scovy Ozumba-Mbadiwe – Nigerian Media Personality
Blacklight: What do you think Africa fashion is to our now society?
Ozumba-Mbadiwe: I think Africa Fashion is our heritage, it’s our identity and it’s also how we communicate. Here’s one thing that I like about what this stands for, It stands in the name Africa Unite, essentially the need to strengthen unity in Africa. That is what it’s all about, using fashion as a platform to bring everyone together from all parts of Africa, East, West,North and South. I don’t need to tell you how this looks, this is a perfect representation of when we all come together. It’s a beautiful result!
Blacklight: How do you think it’s uniting us?
M: I think it’s uniting us first of all from a heritage perspective, we all come here and get to see different people from different parts of the world showcase their culture, heritage and It’s a form of communication. When I see your heritage and your culture, when I can appreciate it, that can bring me closer to you.
I can find something unique to me that’s a form of communication and that’s also how we come together. Nelson Mandela said:“sports and music are the two universal languages of the world”, but I would also like to throw in fashion as well because with fashion we can all speak to each other.
Blacklight: Which designers are you most looking forward to seeing?
M: To be honest with you I want to see everybody because I really want to be inspired. I want to see every different fashion designers representing different cultures. I am specifically a big fan of two people, I am a big fan of David Tlale and also a friend of mine, Mai Atafo, who is from Nigeria, he’s a legend, and he has put me and my twin on the runway before and everybody likes his stuff. I am looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us today, he is very creative, I mean Naomi Campbell has walked for this guy and she is a legend.
K Naomi – TV personality
Blacklight: What would you like African Fashion to reflect today?
Naomi: I would like it to reflect to the world a true reflection of what Africa is, from our cultures to our beliefs, to the beautiful people that we have in our countries, to the amazing landscapes, and also just tell a story of where we come from and how we got here.
Blacklight: How do you think African designers are representing Africa in the world today?
N: I think we have some amazing artists like Rich Mnisi who are winning awards overseas, and that creates a platform for others creatives to be inspired. It’s not going to happen overnight that we do amazing things, but the little we put in and the little that we get will somehow explode at some point. Trust me, as much as people don’t see it, we are doing amazingly. A lot of concepts when it comes to music, when it comes to music videos are generally inspired by Africa.