Celebrating Five Years of African Fashion Week Toronto

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BY DELLIA RISMAY

Pulsating Afrobeats, live music, models strutting down the runway in sky-high heels, and designs that recall nations from Nigeria to Zimbabwe, it was all there at African Fashion Week Toronto. From August 16th to August 20th, AFWT held its annual five-day showcase at the Royal Ontario Museum, displaying the contributions of African designers and those of the African Diaspora to the world of fashion for all to enjoy. Created by the Fashion Ready Organization, African Fashion Week Toronto is now in its fifth year. AFWT aims to put the African fashion industry on the map. With collections featuring flowing evening gowns and crisp suits, there’s no question that African fashion designers are ready to take the world of high fashion by storm.

Erika Enyolu, head of PR and Relations for AFWT, says the event was created to serve as a platform for Pan-African and Caribbean creatives to display their work. “It’s to show the creative arts in the world of fashion through art and that globe,” she says. “This is a platform where we work with models, designers—a lot of people launch their businesses, their collections, and their designs at African Fashion Week.” Among a few of the designers featured at AFWT to do just that are Kahonde Designs, and St. Lucian designer Gervacy, which debuted their collections at the event.

Newer designers showcased their collections alongside seasoned fashion houses like Adebayo Jones, also known as the ‘King of Couture’. He has over thirty years in the fashion industry and debuted his luxury line at AFWT. International designer, John Ablaza, also showcased his line, which features fabrics made from sustainable materials. The event also featured a student designer competition, featuring collections from Bianka Meroe, Judy Gesare, Jessica Danquah, Monah Water, Sadi Johnson, YewandeOduwole and Cannonball Diva.

AFWT also held an awards ceremony on Saturday night to commemorate excellence in the community, in addition to its fashion shows. The night was opened by a fashion show by designer Ofuure, which featured bold prints paired with dreamy, flowing fabrics. Some of the awards handed out included Rising Star Canadian Model of the year, which was awarded to Jimi Loboi, Fashion Blogger of the year, given to AfroFusion Spot, Unisex Designer of the year, awarded to Gervacy, Canadian Emerging Designer of the year, awarded to Precious Threads by Abiola, and Men’s Designer of the year, awarded to We Are Kings.

For those in the audience who were inspired by the captivating designs featured on the runway, AFWT also put on a free sewing workshop on Sunday evening, the final day of the event.

With so many arts and fashion related events that take place across the GTA, it can be difficult to decide which ones to attend. Erika says AFWT is the one to go to because of its unique display of African-inspired fashion. “We get to focus on more of the African-Caribbean designers. In other fashion weeks, they don’t really have that. It seems like there’s not a platform for them. So, we made a platform for other people in the Caribbean and African community to showcase their work.”

Designers of African descent aren’t the only ones who get a platform with AFWT, models do too. With the recent push for fashion houses to include more models of color, AFWT aims to add more diversity to runways. “A lot of black models are not really getting their shine on other runways, so this runway, this is what we do with African Fashion Week. We get to show people and women of color. We also celebrate diversity,” she says. It seems like the efforts to show more diverse talent is paying off, as Erika reports that AFWT is the fastest growing diverse fashion week in North America. “This is why we do what we do,” she explains. “It’s for the people, and for the community.”

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