After 10 years of success with “Fashion Week Dakar” and “Black Fashion Week Prague” launched last year, Adama N’diaye- Adama Paris host the first “Black Fashion Week Paris”. From the 4th to the 6th of October, the scene of the Pavillon Cambon Capucine showcased some very talented designers from Africa but also France, Haiti, Martinique and the United States. The event seems to have brought about lots of satisfaction but also some controversy.

Well in a country where people are reticent to use the term “Black” you already know that the event was critized as being sectarian. But, Adama, the Founder of the Black Fashion Week tells France 24 in an interview, that she is ready to tackle critics. When asked “Why not a White fashion week?” she answers “But Paris Fashion Week is already white!”

and she continues

We wanted to simply promote beyond African borders designers who are well-known in Africa or in their country but who don’t have access to the global market,” she said, explaining that in Africa fashion was not yet seen as an industry in its own right.

Even when designers put together collections, they were often unable to sell them, she said, adding that fashion week was not just an opportunity for designers.

“For the models, the majority of them black, it’s also an occasion to get on the catwalk since most of the shows look for more expensive white models — some of whom dropped out of ‘Black Fashion Week’ to do better-paying gigs,” she said. For the full interview with France 24 click here .

My opinion? Oh gosh, I do have one 🙂

Well, I must start by saying that I absolutely love the idea of exposing African designs outside Africa and dark- skinned models on the runways but I can see why non-black people felt the way they did.

On one side, I am so universal, I love bringing people of all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities together that I can understand that many people felt singled out by the name of this event. Many of the guests where black or mixed as some people noticed. However, isn’t it the absolute opposite at Fashion Week Paris?!?!? Why is that a problem, well, let’s organize a White fashion week in Dakar? with as only guests the people of the white diaspora in Senegal. See what I mean? but also, what can one do if the diversity does not answer the call. Perso, after seeing more videos, I don’t think there was anything to say about the crowd.

Calling this event Black fashion week may sound like a claim (although I do not think it was that for the founder) specially in France where the term Black seems to have a different meaning compare to the term Black used in America or Africa. For instance, calling it African fashion week, would have been more relevant because there is a movement Afro out there, it would make sense. Black fashion…does that exist ? So interpretation here played a big role on what is being said. Words carry power.

On the other side, the underrepresentation of African designers, and dark- skinned models that Miss Adama N’diaye mentionned, is not a myth. It is REAL. They are very little who made it in the fashion world as we know it in occident and I do agree with CEO of Adama Paris when she says “I am not one of those people who sits around waiting for others to take notice,”.

Every person who knows ME, knows that I have said something quite like this before. Well, we live in countries where freedom of speech is promoted so yes don’t wait for people to accept you and what you do! Just do it and live you dream, and that is true for everything in life.

This is where I think the “problem” lies…

1: Cultural shock.

I am no sociologist or therapist but many times, as I am talking to others (and it has been true for me as well) I felt that the problem is for French designers with different ethnic backgrounds to be represented in their country of citizenship. Of course, if you are born in France, you grew up in France and live in France, why can’t your designs hit the catwalk of the French fashion?

2: Close society?

Anyone who has been in France have probably noticed that whatever the media are calling fashion is mostly the only thing that would be sold, bought or worn. There is a clear lack of diversity. For instance if the color of the season is beige and mint, well most likely that might be the only thing one would find in stores or on people’s back. When the trend for african prints hit the market a few years back, well guess what? African prints were in fashion for that season ONLY and everyone had a piece of that trend. Not much space for personal creativity or own personality if I may say. Sometimes it feels like everyone looks the same 🙂 This is mainstream but there are such issues as financial request, or fitting the criterion to showcase in the French market. I think the French market is about the big names aka big brands. Really it is!

3: Can we really label fashion?

It has never been a problem with Dakar fashion week, or Japan fashion week. How can we find a way for all to work together and mix and match our cultures? Let’s find ways to open these different markets to different designers. Asian designers in Africa, African designer in France, French designer in India, Indian designers in America. The question is though, is it a matter of ethnicity, a conservative market, function or designs (= Fashion)?

Maybe we should look at designers of different ethnical backgrounds, who made it through. Duro olowu, Mimi Plange, Oswald Boateng… Check’em out

Ok now, enough with the serious talk! Below are pictures of some of the designers and their beautiful designs, found on the net, that I want to share with you (too bad i could not be there myself, hopefully next year :))

Founder & CEO of Black Fashion Week Paris


Could not leave the following one out 🙂

Youssou N’dour
Artist Singer and Minister of Culture of Senegal

Aissata Ba, October 7th, 2012


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