The 3rd Ghana Fashion & Design Week (GFDW) took place last month at the newly minted Kempinski Hotel in Accra. I was very excited to attend the event, especially since I missed GFDW in 2013 and it was cancelled last year due to the international community having fears of Ebola in neighbouring west African countries (Note that Ghana was not affected by the epidemic).
The event featured several designers from Ghana, South Africa the UK and Italy. Backed by powerhouse sponsor Mercedes Benz, Vogue Italia was GFDW’s media partner for the third time. I had expected a bigger crowd than the first GFDW I was part of in 2012, but it seemed the timing of the shows left scheduling conflicts for many people I had expected to see who in the end were unable to be there.
The fashion industry in Ghana is truly emerging and evolving one. Particularly when you compare it to the international fashion industry at large. Ghana has traditionally been a country that focused on use of personal tailors and seamstresses rather than shopping at high fashion or ready-to-wear businesses. This is the case in many African countries. However, we are beginning to see a shift in the industry especially with shopping malls popping up all over metropolitan areas.
Over the last 10 years African designers have been slowly gaining worldwide attention. Many countries like Ghana now have their own fashion week and the international community is finally taking notice.
Overall, GFDW was well put together in a premier venue. The term ‘fashionably late’ is one that everyone in the industry is used to, but it was also the biggest complaint at this year’s event. Runways shows were delayed over two hours each night. Some joked it was in true Ghanaian style to be that late, but that made for a long night for many attendees who were seen leaving early before the closing runway shows both nights. Sadly this meant a few empty seats for headlining designers.
I overheard patrons asking where some of the established labels were and why they didn’t participate in the shows. Other sentiments included why no Nigerian designers were present. As I looked at the line-up, It seemed the focus was on new and emerging talents coming out of Ghana. I don’t know if that’s for certain, but most designers I spoke with had been doing this for less than 5 years. That being said, most brands in Ghana are relatively new compared to international powerhouses from New York, Paris or London.
There was a strong focus on design talent from Radford University College, the top fashion school in Ghana that offers a program preparing students to compete by international standards. Designers included Radiant Jackson, Michael Kofi Owusu and Tutuwaa. One notable Radford graduate I would have loved to see is Papa Oppong, who is now living in the US as part of Macy’s Fashion Incubator program in Washington DC. He was certainly missed.
Some of the designers that stood out to me included Beatrice Korlekie-Newman who flew in from the UK to present her collection Korlekie. She had pieces that haven’t been seen anywhere else and made their debut on the runway in Accra. We spoke backstage and she shared with me her passion for working with knits, so it was no surprise she mixed knitwear with woven fabrics throughout her collection. One particular jacket caught my eye that I tried on backstage before the runway show. The fabric used in the jacket is similar to materials in car seats, which I found quite fascinating. (I’ll share the video clip with my interview in another post where she explained it in more detail.)
The effortless way Mzukisi Mbane mixed prints and created lightweight pieces with flowing silhouettes was lovely also. His men’s and women’s collection certainly was reflective of his design aesthetic. It was a perfect balance of modern African elegance fused with traditional culture. He had one of my favourite collections. Another notable designer was Bello | Edu. She had simple pieces that reflects the lifestyle of the modern woman.
Overall, Ghana Fashion & Design Week 2015, was well put together, but lacked major show-stopping, memorable pieces often seen in fashion events. Hopefully next year will be filled with more designers as the fashion industry continues to grow in Ghana.