Drones, DJs and Kar­dashian ad­vis­ers at Dakar Fash­ion Week

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

When it launched 15 years ago, Dakar Fash­ion Week had a hand­ful of as­pir­ing lo­cal de­sign­ers and mod­els gath­er­ing in often run-down ho­tels. Now dozens of de­sign­ers from around the world present their cre­ations to thump­ing DJ mixes as drone cam­eras hover above the run­way shows that are broad­cast live on na­tional tele­vi­sion. Among the guests last week was Jenke Ahmed Tailly, an Ivo­rian and Sene­galese stylist who has worked as Bey­once's cre­ative di­rec­tor and now ad­vises Kanye West and Kim Kar­dashian.

Africa's fash­ion scene has grown steadily over the past two decades, with sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa's ap­parel and footwear mar­ket now worth $31 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to data by Euromon­i­tor. Michelle Obama and Bey­once have worn la­bels such as Nigeria's Maki Oh. Jo­han­nes­burg, La­gos, Nairobi and Casablanca are at the fore­front of African fash­ion but Dakar is an equally cre­ative hub, with much of its en­ergy driven by Adama Ndi­aye, the 39-year-old or­ga­nizer of Dakar Fash­ion Week. "When I started it was a young girl's dream to build some­thing in my coun­try," she said.

In­dus­try chal­lenges in­clude man­ag­ing cloth­ing pro­duc­tion costs, qual­ity con­trol, dis­tri­bu­tion lo­gis­tics and reach­ing large mar­kets. Such con­cerns, how­ever, were an af­ter­thought as stylish crowds gath­ered for the fash­ion spec­ta­cle that ran June 27-July 2. One evening, a street show was held for free in a low-in­come neigh­bor­hood to al­low other Dakar res­i­dents to sam­ple the glam­our and hype. Amid the ex­cite­ment was a strain of con­cern. Af­ter at­tacks on ho­tels by al-Qaida-linked mil­i­tants else­where in West Africa, se­cu­rity was tight at the var­i­ous fash­ion events.

And or­ga­nizer Ndi­aye was com­pelled to ad­dress the is­sue of Africans mi­grat­ing to Europe af­ter one of her friends and col­lab­o­ra­tors was among 180 peo­ple who drowned when a boat sank off the coast of Libya ear­lier this year. "It was heart­break­ing to hear that we lost some­one so close to us and so modern and work­ing in this in­dus­try and he had a name," Ndi­aye said. "I still can't fig­ure out why some­one like that would try to go to Europe by boat."

A panel dis­cus­sion ti­tled "Our African Dream" was part of Dakar Fash­ion Week's pro­gram and fea­tured a Sene­galese en­tre­pre­neur who spoke of a failed cross­ing to Europe that al­most cost him his life. Stu­dents and lo­cal youth were in­vited to share the mes­sage that op­por­tu­ni­ties also ex­ist at home.

"I hope that this is only the be­gin­ning of in­spir­ing more young peo­ple to ed­u­cate them on how hard work and strug­gle and pain and lone­li­ness is all part of be­com­ing suc­cess­ful," said Ndi­aye, who will host sim­i­lar talks later this year in Ivory Coast, Gabon and the Repub­lic of Congo. "It's im­por­tant for we Africans to tell our sto­ries to help oth­ers to re­al­ize what we have here is good." — AP

Mod­els sit back­stage dur­ing Dakar Fash­ion Week.

— AP photos

A dress hands on a clothes rack at the end of Dakar Fash­ion Week in the Sene­galese cap­i­tal.

De­signer Ou­mar Dicko, right, of Mali and Bel­gium, laces up a model in one of his cre­ations.

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