cape_town_fasion_GavinFashion as an art form is an important element to a country’s culture and identity. Adorning African attire is one way of embracing African culture and heritage. Just like so many other people in the US and around the globe, I love African fashion. I always look forward to dressing Afrocentric when attending culture events. Many people of the global Diaspora choose to dress this way all the time, making African attire a part of their everyday wardrobe. The beautiful designs, colors and textures are also becoming more and more appealing to different people from various backgrounds. It is no wonder that upscale, trendy African Fashion shows are topping off tourism events in cities around the world.

Fashion shows are emerging as one of the next frontiers in tourism, and talented African fashion designers are taking their valued products to the world stage. People from all over are flocking to see the dazzling fashion shows where models showcase traditional, modern and unique African styles. African fashion shows are proving to be just as lucrative as they are entertaining in the cities where they take place. Fashion shows and events are playing an ever increasing role in boosting the profiles of tourism destinations.

One company, African Fashion International (AFI) is set to sponsor African Fashion Week in Johannesburg on October 20-23. A celebration of some of the best design talents in Africa, it will also include a Fashion Show Awards ceremony. Spearheaded by Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, who serves as chairman, AFI’s vision is to be globally recognized as the leading authority on African fashion-related strategic marketing initiatives and African fashion brands. AFI aims to improve the quality of fashion design output from Africa, and to promote African brands, as well as the fashion designers from the continent.

Believing that fashion tourism can be just the beacon Africa needs to promote the beauty of the continent and its cosmopolitan cities, Dr. Moloi-Motsepe said: “If we look at Africa Fashion Week alone, we bring in a creative influx of fashion people. Designers come with their crews and we also bring in media and buyers from other parts of the world so that they could come and witness the beauty of our continent and its creative spirit. We expose them to an Africa they’ve never imagined, changing the misperception of an antiquated continent.”

AFI also sponsors African Fashion Week in Cape Town, where fashion plays a very essential role in tourism development. Originally launched in 2003, the Cape Town Fashion Week has become Africa’s largest gathering of fashion talent. Open to the public rather than being a strict trade show, Cape Town Fashion Week features seminars and introductory courses for those interested in a career within the industry.

In addition to South Africa, other African countries with major fashion weeks include Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. African Fashion Week in Senegal has continued to grow with designers becoming more Afrocentric than ever, putting their own unique spins on prints and fabric and certainly drawing larger crowds.  Ghana Fashion Week has always been a hit where  local and international designers and buyers attend. Now in its seventh year, Nigeria Fashion Week also plays host to both local and international audiences, and has quickly become one of the most sought after fashion events in Africa. While African Fashion Week is certainly not new in Africa, other cities around the world are catching on and getting in on the tourism boosting action.

gavin_Rajah_capeGavin_Rajah_Cape_townLondon just had its very first African Fashion Week (AFWL) where about 50 designers from African countries including Cape Verde, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Angola participated in a two-day fusion festivity of African music and culture in addition to fashion entertainment.  Filled with excitement along with high fashion, the first Ugandan Fashion Extravaganza UK was a part of London Fashion week this year. Stakeholders in  fashion, entertainment moguls and business leaders joined in with models, designers and fashion enthusiasts for a blast during African Fashion Week 2011 in London.

New York is one up on London with its second African Fashion Week (AFWNY 2011) this summer. Fashion gurus, different professionals and many notables from across Africa and the Diaspora descended on the city’s Broad Street Ballroom for a fashion extravaganza. Presented by Adiree Fashion Agency, the invitation-only event showcased impressive fashions from talented designers like Bill Witherspoon, Danielle Martin, Nadir Tati, Addis, Kozby World and many others. Equally impressive were the models who dazzled the audience cat-walking the fashions across the floor to beautiful background music.  More than just a fashion show, AFWNY 2011 was a celebration of African culture in New York.

European cities like Paris and Milan have dedicated portions of their fashion shows to African designers. Baltimore has included dynamic African fashion and designers in its Baltimore Fashion Week, an event that is gaining in popularity each year. Because fashion events are attracting professionals from the media, entertainment, film and music industries, in addition to fashion experts, it is certainly helping to increase tourism for cities. As tourists and fashion-lovers flock to see the latest trends and designs in African fashion, this will not only benefit the tourist industry, but also promoters, producers and designers of African fashions.

2011 Cape Town Fashion Week- Photos: African Fashion Institute, top photos by designer Gavin Rajah