Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Burkina Faso fashion designers: More to nation than conflict

Sam Mednick

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (AP) – Vibrant African clothes, both traditional and contemporary, enlivened the catwalk in Burkina Faso’s fashion week.

Designers said they are striving to make the West African country become known as an emerging fashion hub, to offset its reputation for its recent coup and ongoing conflict with extremists.

Some of the shows were staged on a central street of Ouagadougou, the capital, where residents lined up to see models strut designs for women and men. The small West African nation hosted its third Ouaga Fashion Week – the first since the pandemic forced its delay.

The colourful four-day show closed on Sunday amid surging violence linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group that’s killed thousands. When the capital was hit by frequent power cuts, models and designers used the lights of their cell phones to put on makeup and fix their hair. Some 35 designers – chosen from about 200 applicants – from West Africa and Europe, showcased their clothes in the capital, Ouagadougou. For the first time the majority of designers, about 75 per cent, were from Burkina Faso, said director of the event Alex Zabsonre.

“Burkina is one of the African countries that has a lot of potential to offer as far as fashion is concerned … That is the reason why I set this project up, to expose Burkina designers and get them recognised at the international level,” he said.

Many of the designs featured Burkina Faso’s traditional, handwoven Faso Dan Fani cloth made from cotton, which Zabsonre said has been worn by celebrities including singer Beyonce and fashion designer, Stella McCartney. The country is one of the top 10 cotton exporters in the world accounting for an average of three per cent of global exports since 2000, according to the UN. Fashion in the country has evolved in recent years so that people have become more clothes-conscious, said fashion designer and founder of Koro DK Style Korotimi Dao.

“Fashion week is not a challenge, it’s an opportunity to hope that everything can become right again,” she said. Since 2017 the European Union has given USD10 million to the Ethical Fashion Project, which has created hundreds of jobs for marginalised women and helps professionalise the textile and creative industry by connecting Burkina Faso producers and designers to the distinguished fashion and interior designers, ambassador to the European Union in Burkina Faso Wolfram Vetter, told The Associated Press.

Models use their phone lights during a power outage to put on make-up before the start of the third Ouaga Fashion Week in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.