DAKAR, SENEGAL - One of Dakar Fashion Week’s biggest events is free and high-end — a fashion show in a working class neighborhood. The event’s founder, Senegalese designer Adama Paris, says the “Street Show” is her favorite show of the week because she gets to take fashion back to the streets where it belongs.
Just across the street from where fast-moving public buses pause briefly to pick up passengers, Moussa Diouf lines up Nike, Adidas and Puma shoes on a short cement wall. The wall sits on one side of a makeshift catwalk in the Niary Tally neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal.
Across the flashy stage, Nicole Coly sells shiny fabrics by the meter in her small corner store. Lace is one of her top sellers right now, she says.
These fashion vendors flank a large catwalk set up for the 15th annual Dakar Fashion Week’s “Street Show.” In addition to their traditional fashion shows in high-class hotels, every year DFW holds a free fashion show in a working class neighborhood of Dakar.
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“This show is my favorite show, because we’re bringing back fashion to the streets,” says Paris, a designer and Dakar Fashion Week founder. “For the years coming, I want this show to become more popular because it’s important to inspire the young people and come to this street with high fashion. Fashion is from the streets, so basically what we’re doing is taking back fashion where it belongs.”
This fashion week show is open to the public, and 11 of the more than 30 designers from nine countries are participating to show off their new lines. A few meters away from the models rehearsing before the show, local tailor Al Hassane Diallo says he is looking forward to seeing new designs.
“I am very inspired because I see what is new. I see something that I didn’t know about before,” Diallo says.
The 25-year-old tailor is just wrapping up one of his busiest seasons of the year, a few days after the end-of-Ramadan parties have quieted down.
Down the street from the tailor shop, Ramatoulaye, a 21-year-old communications student sits next to her grandmother while sporting stylish sunglasses.
“I adore what Adama Paris does,” she says of the Dakar Fashion Week founder and Senegalese designer. “She’s a star.”
Ramatoulaye’s friend, Marie Beye, chimes in: “She could have chosen a nice hotel (for this fashion show), but she loves her country.”
No cheap or little show
As the music starts, children line up in the front row and clap loudly for the different sartorial creations. The crowd dances along as golden-clad models sway down the runway in Paris’ golden, shiny dresses to the French rapper Maitre Gims’ song, Sapeur Comme Jamais (Dressed Like Never Before).
“I don’t want to do, just do a cheap or little show,” Paris said of the Niary Tally fashion event. “I just want to do just actually what were doing in fancy places.”
Another designer comes out with funky dresses that highlight the colorful wax fabric so popular in West African streets, as models march down the runway, knees high, to the 1950s American song, Lollipop. This year there are 100 models walking in the street parade — more than any other year.
In it’s 15th year, DFW has grown from six designers its first year, to 36 this year from nine countries.
After this night’s street parade, the catwalks of Dakar will move to an upper-crust hotel, but for this night, it’s Niary Tally’s moment in the spotlight.