Africa Fashion Festival back and bigger than ever in the capital
After a sold-out inaugural show in 2016, The Africa Fashion Festival is back for a second season with a top-secret location to boot. We caught up with event founder and executive producer Pinaman Owusu-Banahene to find out what to expect this time around.
How has the festival grown since it was first conceived?
We had our pre-launch event at City Gallery back in 2014 where we started talking about the Africa Fashion Festival and then the first major runway show was in 2016 so it's definitely grown from that initial idea to this year's festival, with more on, like the buyer's event, which has been based on consumers and buyers feedback.
What are the benefits of holding a separate buyers event, as part of the festival?
For me, it's the job creation element that is important. The designers are creating jobs and I want to get them some revenue. I think there is a lack of representation of African talent in the New Zealand fashion industry and I want local buyers to see the quality of the work. We've already had some buyers come in and see the work and had really good feedback so far.
How big of an undertaking is planning a multi-day festival like this staff-wise?
We're really lucky because everyone working for us is volunteering their time – apart from the models who we pay – everybody is breaking their back for nothing, myself included. But I think it's really good for our city, giving people the chance to see that diversity and learn a bit more about Kiwi-Africans.
This year you have expanded to include more than just clothing, what was the reasoning behind that?
African Fashion is more dynamic and requires more elements to be showcased so I wanted to show accessories as well as clothing – menswear and womenswear – to bring that diversity but also use it as a way to educate people about Africa.
How did you put together the lineup?
Some people reach out to me and some I have approached. I try them out but I have to make sure they fit with the New Zealand audience. I look at the industry trends and I know the local market quite well, in terms of what works and the colours - very sedate and muted as opposed to very bright. You have to work out what your audience and buyers will like.
One of the designers featured is NZ- Zimbabwean Chido Dimairo who studied in Wellington – How did you come across her?
I poached her from Massey University. I went to Exposure [an end of year design showcase] about three years ago and thought I'd take her under my wing and mentor her. Her stuff is really cool, very Wellington. She sews her own pieces and that ties into the fact that nothing in the festival is mass-produced.
Are there certain trends that people can expect to see on the runway?
It's a lot of trans-seasonal pieces, things that are versatile and will, hopefully, always be in your wardrobe, that's what we're pushing for. They are foundation items you can pair up with lots of other things. Some of the pieces utilise traditional printing techniques which I love. They are preserving that practice but elevating it to a luxury level and working with artisans to help retain those jobs. It's labour intensive and takes time. Everything here is definitely slow fashion.
Can you tell us anything about the yet-to-be disclosed secret location?
I can't say but [Wellington] MP Grant Robertson and Mayor Justin Lester have been really supportive in helping us get the venue. There is no money in it but just the endorsement of them believing in what we're doing and saying it's good for the city is really great. I can definitely say it's in the Wellington CBD!
*Wellington Fashion Festival, until July 22, for more information and ticketing visit africafashionfestival.com.