As Africa gears up to host its first World Cup this summer, the continent’s sartorial skills were front and centre last Saturday night for the third Arise Magazine Africa Collective in New York. A trio of top regional talents - South Africa’s Black Coffee, Loin Cloth & Ashes from Tanzania and Nigeria’s Deola Sagoe - presented their A/W 2010 collections to a packed crowd who joyfully welcomed the designers to the world stage.
Johannesburg-based Black Coffee launched the show with their intriguing interpretation of the classic winter coat - re-imagined as cocoon-like shells draped over the body, cinched and layered at the waist, or rouched from behind in precise, almost couture-like pleats. Rendered in earthy, aquatic tones, the coats’ tailored volume was balanced by a suite of equally on-tone jersey dresses that were clingy up top, yet delicately billowed at the hem-line.
Loin Cloth & Ashes designer Anisa Mpungwe’s pieces honored the Swahili Coast’s sartorial traditions of her native Tanzania. The emphasis was on fabric and silhouette. Brightly-colored textiles were cut both long - in boldly-patterned sarong-like skirts - and wide as poufy, dark-hued parachute pants and near head-to-toe tunic-like dresses. There were sexier pieces too: ruffled-black baby-doll dresses, tight, tweed mini skirts, and diaphanous blouses slightly-scalloped below the shoulder-line. Mpungwe’s mind is clearly far-reaching, with equal nods to both Europe and Africa.
Deola Sagoe’s collection ended the show with a hefty dose of body and bling. Boldly-patterned at one extreme (black, eerie and neo-Goth at the other) Sagoe’s designs ranged from tight, colour-contrasting cocktail dresses to vampire-inspired capes and precision-ripped leggings. Heavy on ruffle, embellishments and appliques, Sagoe’s work reflects the Afrigarchal ostentatiousness of both her homeland and other emerging economic dynamos. It’s fashion for the BRIC bourgeoisie - for whom demure dressing is clearly still a generation or two down the road.