Burkina Faso fashion designers: More for the nation than for the conflict

Vibrant African clothing, traditional and contemporary, has revived the catwalk at Burkina Faso Fashion Week.

The designers say they are trying to make the West African country known as an emerging fashion hub, to compensate for its reputation due to the recent coup and the constant conflict with Islamic extremists. Some of the shows were held in the central street of Ouagadougou, the capital, where residents stood in line to see models of female and male models.

The small West African nation hosted its third Ouaga Fashion Week – the first since the pandemic led to a delay. The colorful four-day show closed on Sunday amid growing jihadist violence linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which has killed thousands.

When the capital was hit by frequent power outages, models and designers used the lights of their mobile phones to put on make-up and fix their hair.

About 35 designers – selected from about 200 applicants – from West Africa and Europe, presented their clothes in the capital, Ouagadougou. For the first time, most of the designers, about 75%, were from Burkina Faso, said Alex Zabsonre, event director.

“Burkina is one of the African countries that has a lot of potential to offer when it comes to fashion … That’s why I started this project, to present Burkina’s designers and to recognize them internationally,” he said.

Many of the designs included traditional, hand-woven Faso Dan Fani fabric from Burkina Faso made of cotton, which Zabsonre says was worn by celebrities, including singer Beyonce and fashion designer Stella McCartney. The country is one of the 10 largest exporters of cotton in the world and accounts for an average of 3% of world exports since 2000, according to the UN

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

“Fashion Week is not a challenge, it is an opportunity to hope that everything will be as it should be again,” she said.

The European Union has provided $ 10 million since 2017 for the Ethical Fashion Project, which has created hundreds of jobs for marginalized women and helps professionalize the textile and creative industries by connecting Burkina Faso manufacturers and designers with prominent fashion and interior designers, Wolfram Vetter, said is for the Associated Press Ambassador to the European Union in Burkina Faso.

“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 CEO of INDOI, a British women’s clothing brand. “We need to celebrate, revive and maintain a local craft in which designers and designers work together to move towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry.”

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