Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


December 27th, 2011

Bel Esprit takes Africa to Portland Fashion Week

Bel Esprit, the online showroom for ethical designers, has quickly become the destination for retailers and press looking for ethical fashion and they are dedicated to changing the way the fashion industry does business, from major labels to emerging designers. They are now working to promote the African supply chain and African design. To support African designers, Bel Esprit has partnered with Portland Fashion Week and Catwalk for Africa, a non-profit company promoting African fashion, to bring African designers to the runway. Portland Fashion Week is the world’s only comprehensive eco-conscious fashion week production, featuring independent designers of eco-couture, urban casual, street & active-wear from all over North America and across the globe. The designers will receive assistance and additional promotion which is not provided by Portland Fashion Week. Portland Fashion Week will provide all the technical aspects of the runway show – staging, models, make-up, hair, backstage and Bel Esprit and Catwalk for Africa will supervise, manage and organize the runway line up.

Bel Esprit and Showroom International Partner with Portland Fashion Week to enhance business opportunities with national and international market to the designers showing at Portland Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2012 Collections on October 5-9, 2011. Showroom International will feature a special two month long post-show exhibit of Portland Fashion Week designers in the online showroom, offering the designers’ look books, media kits and press photos to buyers, press and fashion professionals around the world, 24/7, and enhancing business opportunities. To further support emerging designers, Showroom International will give the winning designer of the Catapult, PFW’s Emerging Designer Award, a one-year membership in the showroom. The Catapult prize package includes a free, full-collection runway show in the regular designer lineup at Portland Fashion Week 2012, lookbook models, photo shoot and design, and marketing consultations.

While some African countries offer financial support for participation, to help designers further, Bel Esprit are organizing an African sourcing event in New York in October.   While the exhibitors currently interested in attending are not strictly ethical suppliers, they welcome the opportunity to present ethical African designers to the fashion industry.

Bel Esprit and Catwalk for Africa will also make an informal “meet and greet” presentation where designers and press may meet with representatives of manufacturers and suppliers. African manufacturers and suppliers will also be permitted to attend “Market Day,” a one-day trade show event for designers during PFW, where they will be able to talk to designers about production and supply needs. Bel Esprit and Catwalk for Africa will work with PFW to promote the African presence at Portland Fashion Week, and Bel Esprit will promote African designers, manufacturers and suppliers to its worldwide database of fashion industry contacts, as well as release press communiqués about the African participation in PFW to the media

Bel Esprit assists companies sourcing supplies and production and helps match vendors and designers.  They are continuously contacted for advice, sourcing and referrals and so are also creating a directory of ethical fashion suppliers on their new website Any ethical African suppliers are welcome to have their companies listed for free.  The directory will also be free to access.

To encourage the development of ethical fashion, Bel Esprit is debuting the Ethical Excellence Award at Portland Fashion Week, known for its ecological commitment. Participating designers may apply for consideration, and collections will be judged on their contemporary style and adherence to ethical principles, from development and production of the label, including ecological and recycled material and fair labor production. The winning designer will receive a one-year membership in the Bel Esprit showroom and Showroom International, and a fabric credit from a high-end fabric supplier. “Facilitating business for the designers showing on our high-end runway is one of the core goals of Portland Fashion Week”, says Prasenjit Tito Chowdhury, Executive Producer of Portland Fashion Week, “Our relationship with Bel Esprit and Showroom International will take those extra-ordinary lines in front of so many more buyers all over the world through their network, which, I expect, will lead to more accounts being written for the designers.”

Designers interested in participating in Portland Fashion Week may contact to apply. Designers interested in the Ethical Excellence Award may contact for a complete application package.

This event is the beginning of further events, promotion and education for the entire fashion industry to further develop ethical resources, and transition even the major labels to ethical practices.

If you are a designer, manufacturer or suppliers would be interested in the opportunities, contact them to discuss further.

Author: Jacqueline Shaw



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