Lights! Cameras! Lots of action! Every mid August for the last seven years, Freemasons’ Hall Covent Garden has been transformed into Europe’s largest festival of African and African inspired design talent. Africa Fashion Week London brings the second largest continent’s burgeoning fashion industry to the international market. Upon arrival, we get lost in a kaleidoscopic exhibition full of the bold and brilliant, a bazaar in marble halls. Up the marble staircase, crossing the marble landing, we’re ushered into the grandest marble hall of them all.
There’s almost as much glamour off the catwalk as on it at this year’s Saturday evening show – helps we’ve front row seats for people watching. The fairy dust of royalty also helps. We’re sitting next to His Majesty the King of Nigeria. It’s the grand finale, the last of the catwalk shows and stars:
- Mary Martin representing UK
- Van Else representing Netherlands
- Lady Biba, Blingshiki, Moremi Collection + Signature Secrets representing Nigeria
- Soboye + Tobams Color representing Nigeria + UK
- AdaChic Designs representing Nigeria + USA
- Mamadou Fall representing Senegal
The music show begins. Actually make that music! Afrobeats reverberate off all the marble. It gets more dancey and trancey with Mary Martin: she’s mixed her own beats. Mary did, after all, work in the music industry before taking fashion by storm. The crowd goes wild! Her handpicked models stride down the catwalk – try the Alexander Technique to techno – amidst huge applause, dresses swirling, skirts burling, scarves whirling. At the fitting earlier, she’d told us, “My mother used to sew and I just picked it up naturally. I just had a gift for design and started off making my own outfits.” And the rest is history as it happens!
As the catwalk show draws to a close, Her Royal Highness Princess of the Congo rises to speak: “We can dress very well. But we also raise proceeds for charity in our industry. I sell clothes in New Orleans to raise funds for women with no health insurance in the US.” The crowd cheers hard. “Women – we love fashion! Men too! We royal families of Africa love fashion!” The crowd cheers harder. “We Africans love to party!” On that note, with a lot further ado, the whole hall erupts into dancing: models, designers, managers, guests and of course royals. Everyone spills onto the catwalk to work their moves. The lighting gets stronger! The music gets louder! The moves get wilder!