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

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora