BY: LEANNE BENN
African Fashion Week has finally kicked off in the city of Toronto. On April 29, AFWT hosted the 4th annual Face of AFWT and Industry mixer. The event was held at Posh Supper Club in the trendy Yorkville area in downtown Toronto. Guests were greeted to lively Afro and Caribbean beats and delicious treats provided by the venue. Models, designers, media bloggers, photographers and more all had a chance to mingle and network.
Finding the face of AFWT promotes the special platform of issues that black models face in the industry. It is a potential platform to help models launch their career while engaging with talented and fresh-faced African and Caribbean designers willing to share their work on an international scale. This event is a way to fill the void in the fashion industry as one hopeful model stated while representing the African and Canadian culture.
Approximately fourten models of various backgrounds including Nigerian, Ghanaian, Somalian, St Lucian, Jamaican, Trinidadian and proudly Canadian took to the stage to begin the process of sharing their passion for being the face of AFWT 2017. The event was hosted this year by three esteemed judges, Olivia Jordan a fashion journalist and contributor to Style.ca, Issac Ansah the co-founder of African Fashion Week Toronto and Kayla Greaves, a lifestyle writer, and editor for The Huffington Post Canada.
The event kicked off with the introductory panels of each potential winner, followed by a first runway walk, a swimsuit walk, a styled look picked by each model and finally a live photo-shoot for the final five.
Five eventually became one as twenty-nine-year-old Zubeida Shirwa of Somalian and Canadian heritage was deemed the new face of AFWT 2017.
Shirwa believes in her platform of beauty and education. As beauty fades, your knowledge is something that cannot be easily taken away from you. Currently enrolled in aviation studies, this hopeful pilot took a chance at trying out for AFWT after the constant encouragement and motivation from her friends and colleagues. With one past attempt under her belt, Shirwa never paid much attention to modeling but it is a natural gift that she is blessed with. She listens to her intuition and develops her own sense of style to motivate her. As an avid fashion lover, the event styling was effortless for her. Shirwa believes in the use of bold and colorful African print to create statements and memorable looks, as she believes in the concept of wearing pieces that are essentially timeless and elegant. As the new face of AFWT Shirwa will be the lead model at AFWT held August 16-20 inside the Royal Ontario Museum. She will also be featured in all promotional features and will have a chance to walk with celebrity designers and new designers at other International Fashion Weeks.
Things are now getting started for Shirwa as she embarks on this journey of empowering women of color in the fashion industry to embrace their roles as well as their heritage. It is an opportunity for black women to be recognized in a positive spotlight. One such designer that Shirwa will have a chance to walk for in AFWT this year is Abiola Akinsiku of Precious Threads by Abiola. This fairly new Toronto-based designer, embraces her Nigerian heritage and includes not only inspirational Nigerian designs but also uses Ankara which is Nigerian cotton that features bold prints and tribal effects. Abiola hopes to bring awareness to African Fashion used in a positive way to express love, culture, passion and happiness within. Abiola believes that African fashion is not limited to the African culture but it is a beauty that should be spread internationally. Abiola has only been on the Toronto Fashion scene for under two years but she has found her love for designing and working with African fabric after motivating herself to live her best life possible and exploring her talents with the love and support of her family, friends and the community.
For more information about AFWT, visit AFWT.ca and attend this year’s featured events August 16-20 and support the beautiful new face of AFWT 1017, Zubeida Shirwa. See you there!