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Designers spread wings at African Fashion Week London

African Fashion Week London kicked off Friday (10 AUG. 2018) with a stunning showcase of collections inspired by the rich culture of Africa.
Now in its eighth year, Europe’s largest African-inspired fashion event features two days of runway shows and exhibitions from new and emerging designers.
Safietou Seck – designer and CEO of brand SARAYAA – debuted a stylish womenswear collection featuring traditional Senegalese fabrics and patterns tailored to contemporary silhouettes.
A former economist and employee at the American Embassy in Senegal, Seck made the move into fashion after one of her designs got the thumbs up from none other than Michelle Obama.
“I was working at the American Embassy and in 2013, (former U.S.) President (Barack) Obama and his wife come in Senegal,” she explained backstage at the Freemasons’ Hall in central London.
“While I was running around the place, very stressed because of the organization, this woman, who is part of the presidential delegation, comes to me, and I was wearing a dress that I designed. And she was like, ‘Who’s that dress is from?’ I said, ‘It’s mine. I designed it.’ And she said, ‘Well, Mrs. Obama would have loved to have your dress.'”
Seck was spurred into action.
“I was like, ‘You know what? You’ve tried to do it. You did not have the guts. This is your last chance. So you have to do it.’ So I got up, I think the same year or – yeah the same year – and I said, ‘Okay, I have to do it.’ So that was in, I started in 2015.”
Three years later, and there’s a high demand for SARAYAA collections. Seck says the success of her business is part of a wider interest in African fashion, generated in part by the Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther.”
“Most of the characters in the movie were dressed, you know, with African-attired, African designers,” she said. “So everybody, I mean like everybody, wanted, you know, to basically wear African fashion. So, now you have that, so everybody’s looking for African designers.”
Like Seck, designer Slungile Mokoena of brand Style and Pride, said her collection was about embracing freedom.
“I just had that feeling that it’s time for me to spread my wings,” she said before her show. “I’ve been holding them down for far too long so now I just want to explore and spread my wings and do the best that I can with my brand.”
Mokoena’s collection was inspired by South African culture – but with a modern twist.
“I combined both the African fabrics and the Western fabrics and then it comes, it becomes not too traditional or not too Afro-centric so that you can wear it on a daily basis and you don’t have to wait for a special occasion for you to wear the dress.”
African Fashion Week London continues today (11 AUG. 2018) with shows from Van Else, Lady Biba, Erenti, Beau Sapeur and Manassas, among many more.

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