Africa Fashion Week Middle East (AFWME) was recently held at Gate Avenue in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), one of Dubai's most sought-after lifestyle destinations. AFWME featured established African fashion designers, such as Ade Bakare, the Nigerian-British fashion designer; Palesa Mokubung (Mantsho), the first African designer to collaborate with global fashion retailer H&M in 2019; Papy Kaluw’s (Urban Zulu), a Congolese-South African designer; Kiza Bespoke, an authentic signature brand based in Dubai by Joe Osawaye; and Zimbabwean Thando Magumise (Ntombi Couture), one of Dubai’s first African designers and a founding partner of AFWME.
AFWME's first runway show featuring Spring/Summer 2023 collections will be created by an all-female powerhouse with the vision to reinforce gender diversity and advocate female empowerment.
At the event, AFWME also officially announced its entry into the metaverse through the virtual platform, Semblance World, making it the first-ever African Fashion Week to own a virtual and digital space in the metaverse.
Semblance World, Dubai’s leading virtual platform for fashion, retail and lifestyle in the metaverse, is a space where consumers can explore, experience and shop from the brands they love. With events, collections and brand stories that can immerse and engage audiences anywhere, anytime, thus enhancing global access.
The metaverse collaboration will play a pivotal role in supporting the upcoming AFWME’s first Fashion Week edition in February 2023, as it will open the path for African and Middle Eastern brands to access advanced technologies and claim its place alongside other iconic fashion brands.
The event was followed by a fashion soiree held under the beautifully lit canopy of lights along the open-air stretch at Gate Avenue's podium, overlooking the iconic DIFC skyline, where luxury brands, such as Urban Zulu, Kiza Bespoke, Ade Bakare, Mantsho and Ntombi Couture showcased their fabulous creations, illustrating what African luxury could look like.
Ade Bakare presented some key pieces from his summer 2023 collection, 2African, named after the African masquerades in Western Africa, with rich, beautiful capes with mask embellishments, silk African pattern adire dresses and shirts, trousers in vibrant colours that capture the richness of modern African designs. While Ntombi Couture’s collection comprised of hues reminiscent of the Zambezi River and its tranquil sunsets as well as pieces with an expression of African opulence through traditional prints.
Kiza Bespoke, which is based in Gate Avenue at DIFC, showcased its unique authentic signature collections, combining the highest levels of refinement with superior hand finishings of what the brand terms as non-perishable suits for men and women.
Joe Osawaye, Founder of Kiza Bespoke and Kiza Restaurant, added: “Promoting African culture and diversity has always been a vision I strived to fulfil, and we are pleased to be partnering with AFWME in their endeavour to create opportunities and accessibility for African creatives who continue to flourish and contribute to the wonderful things our continent is capable of achieving.”
Palesa Mokubung of Mantsho, commented: "It's important for Africans to touch on all points of their continent but more so to cast our nets wider and increase our global presence. Being selected to showcase in the Middle East is a dream come true for a Mantsho girl like me."
On the sidelines of the event, a panel discussion was held with subject matter experts from the AFWME team and some of the designers on how the metaverse technology, sustainability and innovation can pave way for African creatives to enter the region and secure prospects.
Saleh Al Akrabi, Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Property Management, said: “AFWME is expected to be a huge success, showcasing the incredible African talent that is thriving in the Middle East. We are delighted to be the venue sponsor for the event and contributing to its success and vision. With shared common values of sustainability, innovation and technology, AFWME is a natural partner for us, and we are proud to be empowering the women who have spearheaded its success.
“Through our venue sponsorship, we aim to support the wider sustainable fashion ecosystem by connecting designers to Gate Avenue as a key retail destination. Designers have found success here at Gate Avenue and we look forward to welcoming more talented designers who wish to call DIFC home.”
Dubai's Metaverse Strategy, which was launched this year, aims to contribute Dhs4bn to the national economy over the next five years, along with supporting 40,000 virtual jobs. The strategy seeks to adopt creative solutions, improve peoples’ lives and introduce positive socio-economic changes. Furthermore, it will boost regional and global economies, besides bringing in innovation to attract new firms and projects to the hub of modern technology city.