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The Accra-based showcase has become the first major fashion event in Africa to return to a physical format.


By Innocent Ndlovu

Nov 19, 2020

Now in its eighth edition, Glitz Africa Fashion Week hosted its SS’21 showcase from 6 - 8 November in Accra, Ghana. Glitz is the first fashion week on the African continent to fully embrace live shows amidst virtual showcases and postponed or completely cancelled fashion week events across Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the years the organization has built a reputation for fostering both local and West African talents from neighboring countries like Nigeria. Taking place after Shanghai Fashion Week, which also hosted over 90 live shows last month, the event launched with a three-day schedule featuring a mix of Ghana’s new, emerging, and established labels.

With the exception of masks and social distancing measures, Glitz Africa Fashion Week almost seemed like business as usual, with physical runway shows hosted alongside other events on the calendar such as the platform’s annual Business of Fashion seminar and a sales exhibition. On the runway, designers explored ideas of travel, protest through slogans, and exuberance in dressing up. Elegant and lavish looks dominated the showcase, living up to the visitors’ high spirits. As part of key collaborations this season, the African Fashion Foundation (AFF)—an organization founded by Roberta Annan, which supports emerging talents in Africa and the diaspora with educational programmes and grants—partnered with Accra-based designer concept store The Lotte and the Adonai Child Development Foundation (ACDP) to launch the Kayayei Collaboration Collection. The initiative supports young female artisans with skills training and development in the fashion industry. For its first edition this year, AFF and ACDF worked with womenswear label Ophelia Crossland and accessories label Velma who showed a new collection. The two labels trained female porters (or Kayayei as they are known in the Ga language of Ghana) in beading, sewing, and millinery skills that she used to contribute to this limited edition collection.  

Key Trends 

Corsets 

Christie Brown styled corsets with elegant lace dresses and whimsical skirts. Unlike traditional corsets, hers were made from batik fabric with cut-out details and straps that culminated in ruffle sleeves. Another womenswear label Duaba Serwa served hers with palazzo pants, handwoven jackets, and pleated pieces for a more subdued look. Her corsets, which came in warm yellows and cool blues, were created from a woven cotton fabric from Burkina Faso known as Faso Dan Fani.


Shades of Green 

Green, the color of harmony, safety, and renewal was a staple this season, featuring in numerous collections and often mixed with an eye-catching shade of maroon. Greens were seen as layered dresses for womenswear and two-tone menswear pants at Chocolate by Kwaku Bediako, while Ophelia Crossland used the hue for full-length, luxe dresses. 


Easy-To-Wear Sets 

Relaxed tailoring continues to surface at fashion weeks across the globe. In Ghana, it was explored in lounging styles at Kojo Boadi and Jermaine Bleu of silky fabrics that felt right for the moment. Jermaine Bleu’s two-piece sets in gentle blues particularly seemed comfortable enough for both the indoors and outdoors. 


Photo: Christie Brown SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Ohpelia Crossland SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Jermaine Bleu SS‘21.  Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Cindy Mfabe SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Ephymol SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Lukhayo Mdingi SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Standout Looks 

There were multiple standout looks at Christie Brown including a flared, short-sleeved, pinstripe navy suit paired with a draped-sleeve chiffon blouse. Elsewhere in the collection, a batik, mustard top stood out for its cutout corset detailing and dramatic sleeves, while an off-the-shoulder olive green batik dress with abstract pattern work, worn with a bodice was desirable for its understated elegance.

Creative director of Duaba Serwa, Nelly Hagan-Deegbe, largely crafted her pieces from Faso Dan Fani fabric, mixing it with charmeuses and linen, and adding texture using Origami techniques. There was a look for every occasion, from artisanal jackets with fringe hems to a striking floor sweeping green pair of pants, which could easily be mistaken for a dress, worn with a matching blouse whose green and hot pink-ish stripe detail matched the corset.

Describing her journey this season, Hagan-Deegbe said, “It was an interesting process creating [a collection] without knowing who [was going] to buy it under the circumstances.” The pandemic compelled the designer to reevaluate her made-to-order model, pressing her to design ready-to-wear pieces for the first time. “It’s something I always thought about, but the pandemic made it more necessary,” she revealed to Industrie Africa.  

Photo: Duaba Serwa SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Christie Brown SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Duaba Serwa SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Mantsho SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Mmuso Maxwell SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Lukhayo Mdingi SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

On Our Radar 

Ready-to-wear unisex labels Larry Jay and Jermaine Bleu, and menswear label Atto Tetteh were driven by storytelling to produce collections with a global appeal and refreshing approach that challenges the “African aesthetic”, taking inspiration from both local and worldwide influences.

Atto Tetteh, a brand that counts Afro pop/dancehall star Stonebwoy and rappers Sarkodie and Ice Prince as fans, found its inspiration in embracing individuality and “special talents”. When Industrie Africa chatted with the brand’s creative director George Tetteh, he told the story of a young boy who scores zero in an algebra test and out of sadness uses his creative talents to create a mascot and mural, turning a sad situation into something meaningful. S Theorem “[is about being optimistic [and] seeing the positive [in] failures and bad situations,'' the designer explained. “We always want to tell a story with our brand”. And so, that story was told through a collection of refined vegan leather looks, multicolored hand-woven, striped shirts and jackets, denim separates mixed with the brand’s calculus print, as well as uniform style sets of shorts and shirts.

Inspired by his brand's well-traveled clientele, Larry Jay’s Larry Jafaru Mohammed began working on his SS’21 collection titled Nomad in February. The designer showcased his taste for casual separates in tie-dyes and checks. There is a certain sincerity to these clothes and Mohammed’s story. Followers of the brand will immediately notice his checks in purple and indigo shades that filled this season's runway from previous collections. “Making 90% of the fabrics I use doesn’t only ensure I stay true to being an ethical and sustainable brand, but also ensures [that] I am able to make the same fabrics, color, and patterns anytime,” Mohammed explained, talking about his choice of color this season. With a bag in hand, shirts were half buttoned and half tucked or hung loose, styled with the vacationing traveller or errand-running man in mind. And for womenswear, a kaftan worn as a top slipped under a midi skirt producing bulging proportions at the back while an indigo, belted maxi dress was dressed down with flats.

Jason Jermaine Asiedu of Jermaine Bleu focused on a small collection of ten looks inspired by togetherness. “We stayed away from big collections because of Covid-19,” the designer shared with Industrie Africa of this season's offering, which was first unveiled at the International Fashion Hub Market at Milan Digital Fashion Week back in July. The pandemic pushed the young label to focus on lighter fabrics and comfort dressing. Asiedu’s models walked in gender-fluid, unbuttoned silk shirts, jackets, and shorts proposing a youthful and carefree spirit. With unity in his mind, he used the Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu, a symbol from the Adinkra writing system used by the Akan people of Ghana that shows two conjoined crocodiles to signify unity. “We [created] the print using the Batik technique,” he pointed out. This motif was applied all over pants and shirts, and on a sultry knee-length blue dress with cut-out detail and an adjustable slit opening.  

Photo: Atto Tetteh SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Larry Jay SS‘21. Via @larryjayghana

Photo: Jermaine Bleu SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Lukhayo Mdingi SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Judith Atelier SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Mmuso Maxwell SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

New Kids On The Block

The African Fashion Foundation partnered with Glitz for the second year this season to showcase two finalists as part of their Young Design Talent competition: Ghanaian ready-to-wear designers Daniel Opoku of label Nasarks, and Christopher Akpo of Subwaestudios.

Speaking about the two finalists, Annan noted the two designers’ optimistic attitude and creative talents as some of the characteristics that stood out: “It’s the readiness, enthusiasm, and passion. The collections were innovative. It’s great for [designers] to think [outside the box] and not always use the typical African print cloth.” For Nasarks, Opoku presented smart tailoring with pops of color. His suits were cropped and slim, providing a flexible approach to traditional suiting. The collection’s informal mood made for a softer, more casual appeal to today’s modern man. At unisex label Subwaestudios, skirts were cut in asymmetrical slits and denim was fused with PVC for a reconstructed hybrid mash up. It was an experimental set of looks with a DIY spirit, for a crowd who does not follow the norm.  

Photo: Subwaestudios SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Nasarks SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Subwaestudios SS‘21. Courtesy of GAFW

Photo: Boyde SS‘21 by Eunice Driver Photography

Photo: Gugu SS‘21. Via @fashionhandbooksa

Photo: Xavier Sadan SS‘21. Via @fashionhandbooksa

It’s apparent that the spirit of dressing up and showing up lives on in Accra, and will in fact probably grow bigger as the travel restrictions continue to be lifted and life goes back to normal, whatever that normal may be.