African fashion in the spotlight

African fashion on Vancouver’s catwalk | Photo courtesy of AFAM Gallery

Inspired by the African artistic expressions, the African Fashion and Arts Movement Vancouver (AFAM) brings a mix of activism, culture and creativity for their bi-annual fashion show. The event brings together designers and models, uniting their talents to showcase the creativity imprinted on the African continent.

We are paying tribute to Africans in diaspora. We will be showcasing the vibrant creativity from our roots,” explains Yao Zeus Mohammed, AFAM producer.

Mohammed says that while Vancouver is known for its effervescent art scene and the com-
bination of different cultures, the events that are giving a platform for people to represent their heritage are very important.

“When we decided to create the AFAM, our main intention was to encourage other cultures to understand where we come from. We are telling our own stories, hoping to break stereotypes and shine a light in the
expression of our creativity,” says Mohammed.

Representing African culture in Vancouver

AFAM had its first edition in 2017 – the event itself was created after the producer realized a lack of events about African culture in B.C. Mohammed decided to begin an effort that involved many artists with a common goal: bring people together to celebrate Africa.

“We are empowering artists to unite. We all can make fashion shows for our brands, but when we come together, we are a movement,” he explains.

Mohammed believes that by giving a voice to designers and models, other cultures will be able to change perceptions and general notions about Africa.

“With the hostile news about immigration, the second edition of AFAM brings stories that are able to shift this narrative and educate people about our culture.”

Mohammed, born in Togo and a refugee for part of his life, says he is happy to celebrate and
honour his background in Canada, his new home since 2008.

“Our community was waiting for something like this. We want to change the perception of our community, showing how diverse Africa is – from Senegal, Somalia to Ethiopia,” he says.

The second edition of the event will be held at the Scottish Cultural Centre on Feb. 16.

Giving back in a fashionable kind of way

Red Soil, one of the brands participating in AFAM, aims at providing colorful pieces and fabrics from across Africa. This is the brand’s second year in AFAM. Jennifer Allison, owner and founder of Red Soil, has high hopes for the event as she expects it will be a bigger show with an even more diverse showing of designers.

“This event is important because it shows different creative minds coming together to showcase the power and beauty of African fashion and culture,” says Allison.

The brand hand-makes items in Canada while also supporting businesses in Southern Africa.

Traditional but not boring

Pelumi Ogunbanwo, creator of Tribe Àsàní – another featured brand at AFAM – hopes to bring African fabrics and clothing to the world spotlight, but for everyday wear.

“I grew up in Nigeria, Europe and the Middle-East, and I realized how fashion surrounds everything we do. I’ve also learned how empowering individuals could empower a nation,” says Ogunbanwo.

Tribe Àsàní has worked hard to find a blend of traditional fabrics and contemporary designs. Their goal is to remind young Africans that being traditional does not have to be boring.

“We draw inspiration from people, vintage fashion, comfort and drama. We try to combine African heritage in a way that expresses a person’s unique style,” says Ogunbanwo.

Diverse style

Benedicta Oghoadena created Keanu Krafts Ethnic as a platform to promote culture through fashion and style.

“The purpose is to showcase the styles in clothing and accessories of the people in Africa. Our clothing and accessories are a part of our identity and way of life,” says Oghoadena.

With her passion of promoting her African heritage, Oghoadena hopes AFAM will help to educate people about the African continent.

“I hope it will also be a way to explore collaborations and networking. This type of event supports understanding and integration in a culturally diverse community as we have in Canada,” says Oghoadena.

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