As we are aware of and do consider what is happening in eastern Africa, from the monster of East Africa´s hunger crisis, the bloody battles near Ethiopia’s southern borders to Sudan and Southern Sudan; there has been another experience happening. We take a look at Contemporary Ethiopian Fashion and forward-looking interactions. “In Africa I was busy travelling to European photo-shoots, so I was not exposed to the local fashion. So this event is all the more exciting to me!” – Berlin resident Top-Model Luca Gadjus fell in love with several items made by Ethiopian Designers, as she told Beatrice Graf from VOGUE Germany.
Ethiopian designers, who create contemporary fashion for international markets became a reality at the RENAISSANCE FASHION SHOW II on July 17, opened by the Top-Model Luca Gadjus in Munich´s cultural centre Muffatwerk. This event was supported by not only catwalk designer and the event curator Markus Lupfer, but also VOGUE Germany, ASOS and the Goethe-Institut Addis Ababa. This effective collaboration emerged and was brought into motion during a visit by the Editor-in-Chief of the Ethiopian weekly ‘The Reporter’ to Muffatwerk Munich in 2009.
The Ethiopian Designers Mahlet Afework, Sewasew Hailu, Adila Ismail, Yamerote Mengistu and Osman Mohammed had spent some time working on their collections together with the London resident, internationally successful designer Markus Lupfer, in April 2011. Where, over the course of ten days he mentored these five very talented new, emerging Ethiopian fashion designers. Markus Lupfer was equally involved in 2010 when the programme debuted as a way to equip Ethiopia’s largely self-taught fashion designers with the necessary tools they would need to operate in the global marketplace. It ended with the recent full-on fashion show in Munich this July.
As he describes it to German VOGUE, working together with the designers in Addis Ababa was for him also an inspirational experience and he was forced to concentrate on the “Essentials of Design”. The creative challenge increased when not all of the materials – such as jersey or special zippers - were so readily available, as one maybe used to in Europe, or when not all participants were familiar with the European methodology of the cut and construction elements of the design process. As he tells Harpers Bazaar online:
“Working with these designers really opened my eyes…we’re taught all the basics from day one but when I first came on board the project last year I couldn’t believe that they’d even never learned the rudiments of pattern cutting” but “it was really inspirational for me as well as it forced me to go right back to look at what design really means. The outcome was incredible.”
Markus Lupfer is a designer from Germany who graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA in Fashion Design in 1997. He worked with fashion company Clements Ribeiro on leaving college before setting up his eponymous label Markus Lupfer Womenswear in 1998.His collaborations have ranged from that with TopShop to Mulberry and more and has been showing at London Fashion Week shows since 1999, until 2004.
Fashion is international, this is the message that Markus Lupfer wanted to convey to the Ethiopian designers, and for this reason he encouraged them towards modern interpretations of their local traditional handcrafting production techniques.
MAHLET AFEWORK -a.k.a. Mafi is already well established in the Ethiopian fashion scene as well as being very popular in the Ethiopian youth scene and like Markus Lupfer is combining different materials such as handwoven Ethiopian materials with leather, silk, chiffon and knit wear. For the show she presented outfits with muted tones, polka dotted chiffon, leather trimmings and prominent zippers. Pictures of her modern outfits are often showcased in relation to this fashion show and she is a graduate of Zewdetu Design School.
SEWASEW HAILU (Sewasew Design) is the person who attires Ethiopia’s prominent society in the worlds of politics, culture and music, a household name. She takes her inspiration from the traditional ‘Shama’ or shawled robes; light, traditional hand-woven cotton fabrics, which are ideal for her beautiful flowing, colourful, draped and knotted design creations and she only uses fabrics produced by her own weavers.
ADILA ISMAIL (Adila Crafts) – has been working as a designer for over a decade and runs her own studio Adila Crafts in Addis Ababa where she has become successful with crochet made to measure clothes. Inspired by her working sessions with Markus Lupfer, she used coloured cotton-strips instead of yarn for crochet for the first time, to create pieces for the show in Munich, stripped color-dyed cotton fabrics to create chunky crochet dresses with eye catching XXL-Loops and silk dresses worn underneath, were to be seen going down the runway.
YAMEROTE MENGISTU (Rosa Abyssinica) – after spending some time in California she is back home now and professionally designing with leather and cotton, both traditionally used fabrics in Ethiopia. She combines the fluffy, soft and hand-woven cotton fabrics with leather by draping geometrical shapes in an aesthetic, experimental way, to create urban designs for young women. Her aim is to provide new jobs in Ethiopia by exporting fashion.
OSMAN MOHAMMED (Ras Africa) – the only male Designer who took part in this event provides premium and exclusive leather-creations. Calf leather is deeply rooted within the Ethiopian tradition of textiles and clothing. Calf hides are selected by the designer himself to ensure high quality. In Munich he showcased leather dresses cut in simple, puristic, contemporary lines, which become unique through the addition of trendy geometric cut outs, with iridescent neon linings appearing from underneath.
Above catwalk imagery copyright and courtesy of Balint Megg
The DJ´s for RENAISSANCE FASHION II were: DJ Nebiu, who works as an IT-Specialist for GIZ (International Development Cooperation Germany) in Addis Ababa by day and at night by successfully mixing African music, Latino and International Beats. His DJ-colleague for the Munich Event – DJ Jay Scarlett – a local hero, also mixes in a special way (Electro, Dubstep, HipHop, Electronica, Funk, Soul, Jazz and Latin).
VOGUE was supporting the Event by doing the model casting and styling BUT the cherry on the cake was Caren Downie from ASOS.com who selected several pieces during the show in Munich to offer them on the Green Room of ASOS.com. It was in February 2010 that ASOS launched the Green Room, an online marketplace that brings together and highlights brands that promote people and planet, as a means to support social and environmental awareness. Caren says the GREEN Room is about “fashion first but with a conscience” and it is here that brands such as Choolips and the infamous ASOS Africa collection is shown. This type of project is absolutely necessary we feel here at AfricaFashionGuide, its creating opportunities for designers to be mentored by professional, to promote their work, their country AND to have opportunities to sell their product! Sell through is important and this project has laid out a platform for that.
So those five Ethiopian Designers have now officially made it to the international market, and Luca Gadjus can order her new favourites online. Congratulations!