Since the inception of Africa Fashion Week London in August 2011 with a weekend celebration of African fashion attracting almost 5,000 visitors, the CEO, Nigerian entrepreneur Ronke Ademiluyi has worked tirelessly to provide an international platform for emerging African and African inspired fashion designers. And now in its third year, back on the schedule for a whopping four days from 31 July to 3 August, Africa Fashion Week London 2013 is set to be the biggest fashion event outside of the continent.
“We were expecting 500 people in our first year, and almost 5000 people turned up. It was something people had clearly been waiting for,” says Ademiluyi of AFWL which attracted 20,000 visitors last year at the height of the Olympic summer and is set to receive more than 20,000 people this year at its new home, Old Truman Brewery in the hip London district of Shoreditch.
With five months left to the four-day extravaganza, Africa Fashion Week London already have a number of exciting names on board. In December 2012, at the press day which was held at the first AFWL concession store Studio 29 on 29 Opebi Road, Ikeja, the patrons for 2013 were unveiled as Mrs. Fifi Ejindu, the Nigeria-based architect and businesswoman and Yinka Shonibare MBE, the London-based globally celebrated Nigerian fine artist. Both names are well-known for their support of African arts and fashion on the continent and in the diaspora.
“As the AFWL team we are excited to have such highly renowned male and female patrons who are both hugely successful in their fields and both supporters of African fashion lending us their support for 2013. You can expect Africa Fashion Week London 2013 to be a much bigger fashion affair than both the debut and sophomore editions,” promises Ronke Ademiluyi.
With the event set to host 100 designers on the runway and over 100 exhibitors spread across Old Truman Brewery’s massive indoor space, AFWL team is currently receiving applications from designers across the globe keen to reach an international audience in one of the quirkiest fashion capitals of the world.
Surely, here at Africa Fashion Week London one can find, alongside established names such as Adebayo Jones renowned for his opulent evening and bridal wear are newcomers such as 19-year-old Mariam Afolabi of Mademoiselle Aglaia often referred to as the “face of new fashion in Nigeria” and “one to watch” who debuted her label for the first time last August at African Fashion Week London.
“Our aim is to make sure we deploy the support of established fashion designers as well as valued patrons and sponsors to help provide a platform for emerging designers which otherwise they do not often have the means to reach on their own and help turn the spotlight on them and create buyer awareness and international publicity,” says Ademiluyi of the initiative.
Publicity has indeed come thick and fast both on the continent and in the diaspora with Africa Fashion Week London garnering column inches in leading Nigerian dailies and fashion magazines as well as pan-African magazines FAB and New African Woman, French Magazines Miss Ebene and Fashizblack, British glossies Black Hair, Pride and Black Beauty and Hair as well a two-page feature by Arise Magazine editor Helen Jennings in Metro, the world’s largest free newspaper and the third biggest newspaper in the UK with 1.3 million copies distributed across the UK daily..
Of course equally as important for a highly publicized fashion week as designers are the models. Last year’s sophomore event saw 50 models of diverse ethnicity grace the runway and this year not only are the organisers looking to cast 100 male and female models but currently the search is also on to find the new Face of Africa Fashion Week London for 2013 with applicants submitting their entries on the event’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/africafwl
The Face of AFWL 2013 to represent the event on all promotional material and social platforms. The winner will also have the opportunity to represent the organisation at major African fashion and entertainment events in the UK as well as model on the runway at AFWL 2013.
Face of Africa Fashion Week London 2012, Edith Uba not only took part in the promotional shoot at the venue for the event Spitalfields Market but also modeled over the two days of the show and following AFWL 2012 she was signed to one of the top UK modeling agencies Strike Models.
“I could not believe that I would be given that opportunity to win it. I felt that I had accomplished something that can never be taken away from me. It made me believe in myself a lot more. It helps you to appreciate and embrace the beauty that Africa exerts and the fact I was given the chance to represent that,” says Edith of her title as the Face of Africa Fashion Week London 2012.
“I got signed with a UK agency a few weeks after the show. I also got to meet the talented designer Tiannahstyling and I modelled for her at the Music Meets Runway 2012 fashion show in Nigeria. It helped me to understand that I have the willpower, ability and the potential to go as far as I want in this industry, its just being focused and hardworking and perseverance,” Edith adds.
“Edith has been a wonderful face for Africa Fashion Week London 2012 and this year we hope to find equally talented young faces to represent Africa Fashion Week London 2013,” says Ronke Ademiluyi.
As applications for designers and exhibitors, Ademiluyi is confident she has the right team in place to ensure this year’s event is even a bigger success than the last two years. In the meantime, the CEO who divides her time between London and Lagos has her eyes set on her new enterprise – Studio 29, a cencession boutique in the heart of mainland Lagos, governed by the same principle of creating an affordable and chic platform and designers’ hub for established and emerging designers alike.
To get more information on Africa Fashion Week London, visit www.africafashionweeklondon.com
Maryanne Alabi, popularly known as Mayreejay is a wardrobe consultant, CEO of her self named company "Maryanne Alabi". Deputy editor for Bloke mag, contributing Fashion editor for Y!Mag. Fierce lover of and everything Glamorous!! Follow me on twitter @mayreejay for fab fashion updates.