Since 2016, under the command and creative drive of Laure 'Lady Boss' Loutala Mpolo, AFROShow has brought the most exciting fashion designers with influences from all over Africa right to Oxford's door step, showcasing clothing for men and women of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds. The theme of diversity is one that Laure is passionate about emphasizing, and is echoed by the designers she hand-picks to exhibit their wares on this prestigious catwalk.
Set against the backdrop of
I was lucky enough to spend some time backstage in the company of the army of people who make this unique event happen. Unlike the media portrayal of the fashion world as one where the models all look glum (which no doubt does pervade at large corporate fashion houses), the room was buzzing with excited anticipation and laughter. Bukola, whose label La'Kola exhibited in the second show, puts this down to a unifying African sense of humour: "If there's one thing people know about Africans it's that we're always smiling...finding the humour in everything". Her boldly colourful, playful designs, which combine traditional
Care, love and personality are all in evidence from all of the designers involved in the show, and result in a great chemistry between designer and model: at the conclusion of each catwalk, the designers came out to talk about their collections, often holding hands with and hugging the models. While there was, of course, an element of brand promotion to showcasing the clothes, the overarching sense was that the show demonstrates how, at its best, fashion is an artistic, rather than commercial, exercise, seen in the beautiful details and clever mixing of styles that were brought together by the garments on display.
Embracing the focus on diversity whole-heartedly, the show has become a truly international affair and has inspired similar projects to spring up in other parts of the world: several of the models and designers had come over from Belgium, as Brussels-based collective Young Designers Entertainment, to network and share ideas with their Oxford-based counterparts. So the motivation to support the designers covers not just providing a platform, but also facilitating the making of connections to develop their businesses.
The show attracts a range of high-profile guests, such as the Deputy Lord Mayor, Altaf-Khan, who spoke about how the show's philosophy chimes well with what he knows of the welcoming inclusiveness of