More to the nation than to the conflict

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Vibrant African clothing, both traditional and contemporary, enlivened the Burkina Faso fashion week runway.

Designers say they are working to raise awareness of the West African country as an emerging fashion hub, to offset its reputation for its recent coup and ongoing conflict with Islamic extremists . Some of the shows were held on a central street in Ouagadougou, the capital, where locals lined up to see models strutting for women and men.

The tiny West African nation has held its third Ouaga Fashion Week – the first since the pandemic forced its delay. The colorful four-day show ended on Sunday amid rising jihadist violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands.

When the capital was hit with frequent power cuts, models and designers used the lights on their cellphones to do their makeup and hair.

Some 35 designers – chosen from around 200 applicants – from West Africa and Europe, presented their clothes in the capital, Ouagadougou. For the first time, the majority of creators, around 75%, were from Burkina Faso, said Alex Zabsonre, event director.

“Burkina is one of the African countries that has a lot of potential in terms of fashion… This is the reason why I set up this project, to expose Burkinabé designers and have them recognized at the international level.” he said.

Many designs featured Burkina Faso’s traditional hand-woven Faso Dan Fani cotton fabric, which Zabsonre says has been worn by celebrities such as singer Beyonce and fashion designer Stella McCartney. The country is one of the world’s top 10 cotton exporters, accounting for an average of 3% of global exports since 2000, according to the UN

Fashion in the country has evolved in recent years, so people have become more aware of clothes, said Korotimi Dao, fashion designer and founder of Koro DK Style.

Fashion week isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity to hope that everything will be okay again,” she said.

Since 2017, the European Union has donated $10 million to the Ethical Fashion Project, which has created hundreds of jobs for marginalized women and is helping to professionalize the textile and creative industry by connecting producers and designers across the world. Burkina Faso with prominent fashion and interior designers, Wolfram Vetter, the Ambassador to the European Union in Burkina Faso told The Associated Press.

“It’s time for these unrecognized artisans to play a role in the global fashion arena to keep these crafts, traditions and cultures alive,” said Mallika Chaudhuri, Founder and Director of INDOI, a womenswear brand. based in Great Britain. “We need to celebrate, revive and sustain local craftsmanship where designers and makers work together so that we move towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry.”

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