I’ve always been an advocate of bringing African designers to the limelight, not because I am from Africa, but because there is so much under represented talent on the continent. I had the opportunity to witness, live, the caliber of talent that African designers bring to the fashion stage. Black Coffee designers Jacques van der Watt and Danica Lepen, Anisa Mpungwe of Loin Cloth and Ashes, and Deola Sagoe, representing South Africa, Tanzania and Nigeria, respectively, took center stage at the main tent at Bryant Park to showcase their fall 2010 collections at the ARISE Magazine African Collective III Fashion Show.
South African designers Jacques van der Watt and Danica Lepen opened the show with a stunning collection of coats. It was hard to ignore the impeccable craftsmanship and ingenious detailing used on each piece. It will be a shame to check these coats at the door because each one was is work of art. Quilted back, suede drapping, intricate drapping, folded hems and wings had me salivating and somehow wishing for a cold autumn so that I could put on one of these coats.
Anisa Mpungwe of Loin Cloth and Ashes gave the crowd something to talk about with a contemporary collection of frocks and separates that are sure to become timeless classics in women’s closets. The collection included high waisted skirts, relaxed silhouettes, structured jackets and strong shouldered dresses. Two dimensional necklaces that adorned the necks of models added a touch of whimsy to the timeless collection.
Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe closed out the show with a stunning collection of a military-inspired pieces in dark colors as strong as the African woman. Never one to disappoint, not a single detail was out of place. A bi-colored puffy sleeved mini dress that reminded me of the the duality of night and day was embroidered in all the right places, accentuating the most feminine parts of a woman. Texture, embroidery, dimensionality, and sheer sex appeal made each piece in the collection a work of art. A white long sleeved dress that was sent down the runway brought out gasps and claps with its angelic A-line shape, sheer collar and paneling dujour. Jumpsuits and sheer blouses were sent down the runway as well.
Deola Sagoe finished off the collection with evening gowns and short dresses, the showstopping piece looked like liquid metal cascading down the model’s body. Sagoe’s complete collection received a standing ovation from the full house, which was no surprise considering the finesse in which she executed each piece.
There were celebs galore in the first few rows of the sold out show. I tweeted up a storm during the collection with amazement because it was refreshing to see African designers given the spotlight. There were moments that I felt a bit teary-eyed because the ARISE show not only gave these designers a stage to show the world their talent, it also gave black models and models of color a stage to shine. To see beautiful dark women in all shades walking the runway with their long, graceful, gazelle like legs was beautiful. Where are all these models on the runway during the main stream designer showcases? ARISE is a must attend show for anyone who attends fashion week because the caliber of talent on the runway is comparable to that of the Jason Wu’s and dare I say Oscar de la Rentas of the world.