16 February 2012
by Isabella Redmond Styles
The latest fashions from Nigeria, Botswana and Sierra Leone have landed in the British Council foyer. The work on display includes a wide variety of womenswear and accessories which make use of traditional national design processes as well as referencing current fashion trends.
Omoyemi Akerele has curated the Nigerian section of the exhibition with a display titled ‘Tales by Moonlight: A fashion folklore.’ Omoyemi stresses the importance of supporting the fashion industry in Sierra Leone, which is still very much in its infancy, and the designers based there who continue to produce work that marries cultural heritage with contemporary vision. Bridget Awosika is one such designer, a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York, Bridget’s collections are an amalgamation of both African and American influences. The striking black silk chiffon gown on display manages to juxtapose a traditional Nigerian silhouette with a sleek edge.
Self-taught designer Lisa Folawiyo, who designs under the name Jewel by Lisa also exhibits work that incorporates national tradition, in this instance Ankara fabric and the Yoruba Agbada robe, to create an ornate, hand beaded pieces which take from 5-10 days to produce. Lanre Da Silva-Ajayi is also self-taught, creating out of the ordinary designs that track the changing tastes of Nigerian women. A Nigerian accessories designer now based in London, Anita Horsfall produces collections under the name Anita Quansah. Her collections, as displayed in the exhibition, are a playful mix of precious and every day metals including safety pins.
The Botswana showroom also includes plenty of accessories, the majority of which are the work of Buhle Mguni and her Tswanalyric label. Buhle is known for her colourful jewellery which makes use of traditional Botswanan fabric in contemporary settings and her skillfull reimaginings have gone on to win her the 2011-12 Diamond Tracing Company Shining Light Award.
The Embassy of Sierra Leona selected London based Mariama Kargbe to represent their country in the exhibition. Mariama works under the design name Eternel and her pieces are created using local artisan techniques. The dress and jacket on display was created using the traditional Sierra Leone ‘Gara,’ or tie dye technique.
The Africa showcase is taking place from 14 February-2 March at the British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2BN.