With all things Africa being the “new black” in global fashion, once again Vogue Italia’s Editor in Chief, Franca Sozzani has dared to do what her counterparts have yet to do, creating ‘Discovered in Africa’ – a new fashion initiative that showcases African fashion to the world.

 

As the Fashion for Development Goodwill Ambassador, Sozzani recently took an explorational mentoring tour of Africa to see for herself what the buzz about the so called “New African Fashion” was all about, so she can hopefully represent it properly &  in its authentic full spectrum outside of European & American embellishment & aesthetic.

While many Black publications in America & Europe give lip service to the lack of  African inclusion in publications like Vogue, she has dared to DO something about it and go out in search of global African design talents who would love the opportunity to learn from & be showcased in their publications just as much as Vogue.

The result has been a “Sozzani mentored” network of small and medium-size businesses working in fashion in Africa. In collaboration with yoox.com and Fashion for Development, Sozzani and Vogue have created ‘Developed in Africa’ – an online showcase and store featuring the freshest and best in African fashion talent.

The designs of Kofi Ansah

Global Mamas, for example, is a business in Ghana that provides work for groups of women creating clothes for women and children with hand-dyed and printed fabrics. Then there’s the designer Kofi Ansah, who, after working for many years in bespoke men’s tailoring in London’s Saville Row, decided to return to Ghana and set up an atelier giving young designers the opportunity to create small collections using traditional African fabrics but cut in a contemporary style.

In Nigeria, there are young talents like Tiffany Amber, who produces gorgeous small coats in wax-printed fabric, and LDA, which creates complete clothing collections in a unique style.

At Sabahar in Ethiopia, they cultivate silkworms. The silk is spun and woven by hand, and then coloured with natural vegetable dyes to produce beautiful scarves and shawls.

Again in Ethiopia, there are the beautiful creations of the top model Liya Kebede , who produces her Lem Lem clothing range in Addis Ababa. The young, colourful pieces are woven on traditional looms with the lightness of traditional Ethiopian gabi fabric.

Thanks to the intuition and creativity of Giovanna Villani of Braghette Rosse, the Mama’s Milk line of bags provides work for street children. They collect plastic milk bags, which are cleaned, cut into strips and then hand-woven on looms to create a unique material for bags and accessories. Then there’s the Crea line of jewellery by Cristina Cisilino, who lives in Kenya and works with local craftsmen to produce delicate, luxurious pieces.

Also in Kenya,Elisabetta Capolino has transformed local tradition into modern, cutting-edge designs with Le Collane di Betta.

The project will be presented yoox.com in conjunction with the May 2012 edition of Vogue.

Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of yoox.com is excited about ‘Discovered in Africa’. “It’s a great project, because we have a great person (Franca Sozzani, Ed.) supervising it . Our costumers will be very much in love with some of the designers’ creations, because they are fantastic, simply fantastic.”

While African design now have a real opportunity to be seen and appreciated globally and while Franca Sozzani has done more for African fashion than anyone in a long while, my challenge (in my recent post on Africa’s emerging super models) still stands.

Africa needs to develop its own vehicles to get OUR work out to the global markets. We need to step up in our professionalism and excellence, create our own networks and distribution models and proudly market ourselves to the world, instead of relying on existing global channels, juggernauts though they may be.

That’s when we’ll move from being regurgitators and dependents of the global economy, to being creators and leaders in our own right.

For more pics from the ‘Discovered’ in Africa’ project, visit our facebook page – facebook.com/afritorial.

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About Fashion for Development:
Fashion for Development is an initiative that promotes development in emerging countries through fashion. The project started in 1996 thanks to the work of Bibi Russel, the former Bangladeshi model who launched a development campaign in the textile sector – with the help of Unesco – specifically to help female workers free themselves from poverty.

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