DAKAR, SENEGAL — A total of 11 designers from Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, and Guinea-Bissau showcased their collections during the fashion week’s street event in the Niary Tally neighborhood of the Senegal’s capital.
The public show attracted a young crowd of Senegalese who proudly looked on as five local designers took turns sending their collections down the catwalk, including Dakar Fashion Week creator Adama Ndiaye.
Ndiaye, better known by the name of her clothing line, Adama Paris, presented an array of glittering gowns and jumpsuits.
She was followed by a Dona Pen Design collection from Gabonese designer, Dona Pen who added a splash of color to the runway as 50s throwback music blasted from the speakers.
“Yes, it’s my first time tonight, and I hope it won’t be the last because I really enjoyed it,” said Salimata Faye from Senegal.
“They were all gorgeous. I loved Lahad because I know him personally, but I also liked the guy with the shiny stuff, I don’t remember exactly (his name), but it was really nice. Yesterday it was at the Pullman (hotel). It was great too, the originality. You see, here it’s in the street. It’s different from what we’re used to seeing actually. Often, it’s in hotels, in stylish places, but here it’s open to everybody and it helps to highlight Senegalese culture and fashion,” Kevin from Benin said.
Designer, Linda Dikongo from Cameroon created a men’s collection in tan and black.
On Friday and Saturday, June 1 some of the designers and more will debut their collections at the stylish and contemporary Radisson Blu Hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Tickets for these events start at 15,000 West African Francs (25 U.S. dollars).
Nigerian fashion designer Ejiro Amos Tafiri started ready-to-wear label E.A.T. (Ejiro Amos Tafiri) in 2010 to cater to modern women.
Tafiri is inspired by the joie de vivre and cultural diversity of her hometown Lagos. She developed a love for fashion from her grandmother who was her tailor growing up.
“It’s in progress. It’s still going to a bit different when you see it on the runway eventually. So the collection as a whole is inspired by underwater creatures and things. So I’m playing with a very soft palette of sea light colors. You have peach in there, you have lavender, you have soft blues, just really nice soft colors all blended together. But then I’m using fabrics – either it’s hand-dyed or it’s hand-woven, just stuff that I’ve tried to build up myself, and we have different elements of fabrics in there,” Tafiri said at her workshop in Lagos.
“It’s just a really nice matchup and I hope that you enjoy. I look forward to showing it to you as a collection, telling the story fully. I don’t want to reveal too much right now, so see you on the runway,” she added.
Senegalese designer Lahad Gueye, who is taking part for the third time, closed out the night with a black and gold collection of evening gowns from his Al Gueye label.
He is scheduled to reveal his colorful new collection on the final Radisson runway show on Saturday.
One of Dakar Fashion Week’s biggest events is free and high-end — a fashion show in a working-class neighborhood. The event’s founder, Senegalese designer Adama Paris, says the “Street Show” is her favorite show of the week because she gets to take fashion back to the streets where it belongs.
Just across the street from where fast-moving public buses pause briefly to pick up passengers, Moussa Diouf lines up Nike, Adidas and Puma shoes on a short cement wall. The wall sits on one side of a makeshift catwalk in the Niary Tally neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal.
Across the flashy stage, Nicole Coly sells shiny fabrics by the meter in her small corner store. Lace is one of her top sellers right now, she says.
These fashion vendors flank a large catwalk set up for the 15th annual Dakar Fashion Week’s “Street Show.” In addition to their traditional fashion shows in high-class hotels, every year DFW holds a free fashion show in a working-class neighborhood of Dakar.
“This show is my favorite show because we’re bringing back fashion to the streets,” says Paris, a designer and Dakar Fashion Week founder. “For the years coming, I want this show to become more popular because it’s important to inspire the young people and come to this street with high fashion. Fashion is from the streets, so basically what we’re doing is taking back fashion where it belongs.”
This fashion week show is open to the public, and 11 of the more than 30 designers from nine countries are participating to show off their new lines. A few meters away from the models rehearsing before the show, local tailor Al Hassane Diallo says he is looking forward to seeing new designs.
“I am very inspired because I see what is new. I see something that I didn’t know about before,” Diallo says.
The 25-year-old tailor is just wrapping up one of his busiest seasons of the year, a few days after the end-of-Ramadan parties have quieted down.
Down the street from the tailor shop, Ramatoulaye, a 21-year-old communications student sits next to her grandmother while sporting stylish sunglasses.
“I adore what Adama Paris does,” she says of the Dakar Fashion Week founder and Senegalese designer. “She’s a star.”
Ramatoulaye’s friend, Marie Beye, chimes in: “She could have chosen a nice hotel (for this fashion show), but she loves her country.”
No cheap or little show
As the music starts, children line up in the front row and clap loudly for the different sartorial creations. The crowd dances along as golden-clad models sway down the runway in Paris’ golden, shiny dresses to the French rapper Maitre Gims’ song, Sapeur Comme Jamais (Dressed Like Never Before).
“I don’t want to do, just do a cheap or little show,” Paris said of the Niary Tally fashion event. “I just want to do just actually what were doing in fancy places.”
Another designer comes out with funky dresses that highlight the colorful wax fabric so popular in West African streets, as models march down the runway, knees high, to the 1950s American song, Lollipop. This year there are 100 models walking in the street parade — more than any other year.
In it’s 15th year, DFW has grown from six designers its first year, to 36 this year from nine countries.
After this night’s street parade, the catwalks of Dakar will move to an upper-crust hotel, but for this night, it’s Niary Tally’s moment in the spotlight.
– Ricci Shryock I VOA I Channels Television I Editor: Michael Onas