There have been fashion weeks on the continent before (in Ghana alone there have been at least three this year), but Ghana Fashion and Design Week was different. Held over two days at the Accra branch of five-star Swiss hotel chain Movenpick, the event boasted luxe international brand sponsors including Moet and Chandon, Porsche, Blackberry, and Vogue Italia.
Legendary model and industry activist Bethann Hardison sat front row covering the collections, there in her capacity as Vogue Italia’s editor-at-large, even as Huffington Post columnist Zandile Blay flew to Accra expressly to cover the event for her online news wire AfricaStyleDaily.com. By contrast, news of the event was hard to find in local news outlets. Only one Africa-based company, the make-up brand So Aesthetic, was among the sponsors.
Producer and founder Daryl Rita Osekreh says specifically the Ghanaian media outlets she approached for sponsorship weren’t interested. “They are not particularly interested in coming on board,” she explained at the private post-event reception as guests sipped flutes of complementary Moet, “whereas you find international media who are interested in supporting and pushing the industry.” That said, Osekreh explains her vision for the Ghanaian fashion industry is not a local one.
“If we’re going to lift the industry so that it will be internationally recognized,” she said, “we need to bring the international press.” Ironically, international media found designers local to their markets in the Ghanaian program. Brands based in America, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, and Spain took advantage of the intimate international platform. Osekreh says a panel of experienced fashion industry experts chose the 18 designers brands that showed.
Of the designers that presented, seven were based in Ghana, though many of the international brands had some Ghanaian connection. Germany-based design student Sarah Ama Duah who showed an inventive collection of dyed yarns inspired by her curly Afro has family in Ghana, as does Londoner Sena Dale Mortoo of menswear label Morts and More, and Montreal-based womenswear designer Naana Tenachie-Yankey founder of Cocolily.
Even with the average Ghanaian citizen earning $3,100 per year or less, and a nearly non-existent ready-to-wear market in the country, most of the designers spoke with excitement about the emergence of a burgeoning African market for their wares. “I believe I will find my target client in Ghana,” said Texas based designer Chigozie Anaele who showed looks from her Kachi Designs brand.
The optimism in the air was palpable. In spite of exceedingly late start times, guests waited patiently, alternately preening for the roving cameras in their sharpest sartorial expressions, and swilling cocktails in the hotel lounge. When the shows finally started, attendees weren’t afraid to vocalize their approval or disapproval of the looks sashaying down the runway.
Whether Ghana Fashion and Design Week will translate into a viable marketplace for designers in Ghana and elsewhere remains to be seen. Buyer appointments are scheduled for the next two days and with press beginning to percolate across the interwebs, it is certainly off to an auspicious start.
-Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond