News / USA

NY Fashion Week Helps Kick-Start E. African Designs

Models wearing East African designer wear prepare for a runway show in Kampala. May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Models wearing East African designer wear prepare for a runway show in Kampala. May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
When it comes to locally-made clothes, East Africa lags behind other regions, hamstrung by the ubiquity of cheap foreign-made castoffs.  But now the producers of New York Fashion Week are helping to kick-start East Africa’s fashion industry. 
They say a series of runway shows could create thousands of jobs, especially for women.

Like hundreds of entrepreneurs in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Emily Walusimbi is in the business of fashion. She sells clothes from a small shop on the side of the road, where women of all ages come to look stylish.

“They want to go with the trend - what they see in magazines, what they see on the net, that’s what they want, not what their parents wear,” she explained.

But all Walusimbi’s clothes are second-hand, made in Europe, and the trends her customers want to follow come from Europe as well.

“If there is a new style in Europe they get on the net, so they say ‘I want that one,’” she said.

Unlike in West or Southern Africa, East African women get almost all their fashion from Europe and America, said Ugandan fashion designer Gloria Wavamunno.  Even local tailors shy away from creating their own designs. “We tailor Western styles.  So we copycat rather than innovate,” she stated.

But this year a group of producers and designers is hoping to kick-start a home-grown fashion industry they say would benefit the regional economy.
 
Models wearing East African designer clothing prepare for a runway show in Kampala, Uganda, May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)Models wearing East African designer clothing prepare for a runway show in Kampala, Uganda, May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
x
Models wearing East African designer clothing prepare for a runway show in Kampala, Uganda, May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Models wearing East African designer clothing prepare for a runway show in Kampala, Uganda, May 17, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Backstage at a recent Kampala fashion show, dozens of models and stylists put the final touches on flowing robes, chunky metallic jewelry and African-patterned tunics.

LDJ Productions, the producers of New York Fashion Week, are helping to stage a series of runway events throughout the region to showcase local designers and attract sponsorship.  They are also planning workshops in business development, marketing and social media.

CEO Laurie DeJong said the fashion industry can help with development by boosting commerce and creating jobs, especially for women.

“In New York we do Fashion Week in Lincoln Center twice a year, and just in the neighborhood that we do fashion week in, it brings in $82 million in revenue.  So the potential here is enormous," DeJong explained. "And for women there’s not a huge amount of opportunity in the region, but fashion is just a great vehicle for women.”

But East Africa has a long way to go, she said.

“Because it’s nowhere near where it is in South Africa or Nigeria right now.  They’re probably about four to five steps behind. And I think it’s just because it’s such a new industry.  The resources aren’t here yet, and part of what we’re helping to do is to assist in bringing in the right resources,” she said.

Attitudes are slowly starting to change, said Wavamunno, as East Africans come to see fashion as art.

“I feel locally, we are just starting to understand or appreciate our own local artists and understand that yes, they can be what you’re wearing.  You don’t have to feel clothes are only made internationally,” she said.

But with so many second-hand Western clothes available in markets and shops, some costing less than a dollar, building a business is an uphill battle.  The solution,  may need to come from politicians.

“Second-hand sounds reasonable because it’s quick and it’s cheap.  But we need to now create a balance of it, and that also starts politically, because we also need to then have our government controlling the amount of second-hand that comes [into] our country,” Wavamunno added.

DeJong and her team are partnering with a regional arts association on a series of fashion weeks later this year in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid