I happened to be on the tube train, yes I did take public transport – sadly, no car to drive as I am just visiting and I just did not feel like hiring a car and then having to pay congestion charges and have nowhere to park it – what a city. As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, I was on the train and someone left behind a copy of the Evening Standard and as I had a long cold ride on the tube I decided to flick through it and have a read and I came across an interesting article on page 20/21 entitled "Where are all the black models on our catwalks?".
In brief Iman, Naomi Campbell and Bethann Hardison have teamed up to launch a campaign to combat fashions 'virtual white-out". It is a sad state of affairs when she states there were more models of colour used in the 70's when racism was rift then now in 2013. An in depth research was done across all four of the big fashion weeks (London, Paris, Milan and New York) and only 6% of the total models used were models of colour.
HERE WHAT NAOMI CAMPBELL HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT ON SKY NEWS
The figures above do not surprise me in anyway whatsoever and I could have saved them money by not paying to do the research as you can see that models of colour are not being used anywhere. Similar to when I did the Italia Vogue All Black Issue it was simply about having the necessary facts needed to back up their arguments. I love Iman as she shoots straight from the hip and says it is blatant racism.
The coalition goes on to list the designers and fashion houses they say are "guilty of this racist act" and I can't say you would be surprised at the names listed which include, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham ( sorry I have to add an extra comment here but to me from time she allegedly looks like a racist – I apologise to any Victoria Beckham fans that I have offended), Roberto Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
The above is a very impressive list, one that I would not want to be a part of. I will come back to all of this later but I want to briefly talk about London Fashion Week. At the moment there are three big main shows, British Fashion Council (on schedule), Fashion Scout (off schedule) and Fashions Finest (off schedule). The first two shows are seen as mainstream and feature mainstream designers and rarely have any black models, Fashion Scout has at least one or two more than British Fashion Council shows, but listen to this our Show Fashions Finest was described as a "black" show (this was said by a white person). Was I surprised by this, yes I was and I was surprised because as far I was concerned I did not see our show in terms of the colour of our designers but simply that we had a good designers. Then again I suppose I am being naïve as the moment you have more than one black designer and two black models at a show then duh it must be a black show. It's irrelevant that we had white designers, Polish and English models at the show and the ratio of black/white models and designers was evenly balanced in the eyes of mainstream our shows are black shows.Mr Mahogany's Commentary:
I applaud the three super divas (said in the nicest of ways) for their initiation of this campaign and I applaud Iman even more for her stance that she would not spend her money with any designer that refuses to use black models. I just wish that more of us would take that stand and stop putting money into the pockets of those that refuse to use us in their shows or campaigns but are very happy to take our money and grow rich.
I do hope that one day especially our women will wake up to this slap in the face and stop spending money with these designers, the only way to teach them a lesson is to hit them where it hurts them the most - in their wallet.
It is absolutely outstanding that Iman and co have the courage to actually name and shame the designers and as far as I am concerned it's about time too. The beauty of it all is they can't be sued because there is documentary evidence to prove their claim.
Fashions Finest has no regrets for being viewed as we are because we have become and I can say it categorically the biggest and only multicultural show during London Fashion Week.
Even though the black community is not vocal about their outrage at the lack of recognition for people of colour on the fashion catwalks of the world, either by the showing of models or designers at the big shows at least black people particularly Africans have started trying to do something about it. This can been seen by the wave of independent fashion weeks that are springing up around the world particularly the Africa Fashion Week's such as Africa Fashion Week London and Africa Fashion Week New York to name just two of the biggest amongst the 10 or more shows there are around the world. The message is we can do bad all by ourselves.
I don't think things will ever change amongst the designers and the owners of the official big four fashion weeks unless there is a massive public outcry or legislation is introduced and that is never going to happen, simply because unlike Jewish and Asian people black people just accept things, we moan quietly in our homes but don't have the guts and the courage to stand up and fight for what we complain about. I say it all the time and people laugh at me but part of the reason why I don't get any recognition within mainstream despite what I have achieved is because I have and I am prepared to rock the establishment boat, but sadly the likes of myself and Angel Sinclair cannot change the world by ourselves.
It reminds me when I hear black people complain that black people don't win such shows as X Factor, Britains Got Talent etc – very simply put it's because you won't vote either cos you are too damn cheap or just can't be bothered, but you can be bothered to complain (the use of YOU is not aimed at you personally that is reading this blog, it's just a general term I use), however if you do feel you fit the mould then I say no more.
If there is anything I can do to support this campaign you can trust me that I will be screaming from the rooftops and if any of you wish to join me, I have an enormously big roof.
I know a lot of you don't like to read nowadays, so I will attempt to keep it short and do it in chapters for you, so that you can take your time and read chapter at a time.
I was recently informed by someone that the publicity for Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) was not very good as lots of people had not heard about it, so just in case you are one of them I thought it best to let you know what AFWL is. However if you are of African descent, love fashion and live in the UK and have not heard of AFWL – you need to get out more and get some friends.
I have no intention of writing something from my head about what AFWL is about, so being honest I just went to the website and copied what AFWL is about – "Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) is the biggest African event of its kind in Africa. A collaborative fashion exhibition, highlighting the industry's established and emerging African designers, AFWL is at the forefront of capturing the surge of the African inspired trends in the fashion industry. Our annual event aims to celebrate the work of African and African inspired designers in the UK and worldwide". In short, it is a fashion week and exhibition that showcases African or African inspired designers/exhibitors – the last bit was written by me – not a bad summation, even if I say so myself.
Now let's get to the juicy bits.
Chapter One - Fittings
I arrived in the UK about a week before the show, "hold on wait a minute" (not sure if you know that phrase in a famous song – you need to say it like that if you know the song – I am not telling you what it is, go figure it out), I am sure you do not think that I just started work on the show a week before the event, trust me I have been working on the event for the past 9 months.
Normally I would be in town much earlier but there is just so much going on in Nigeria that I could not leave any earlier, so I get straight into town and start the fittings. We had two very intensive days of fittings. Let me break it down for you 40 plus models, 20 plus styling team, and over 65 designers to fit in two days that is a lot of work. Now I am not really talking about the actual fittings I am talking about it is a lot of work to deal with sooooooo many women. Thank you Lord for patience, by his grace I got through it - JUST!
Before I go on, to all the men that are reading this and are envious of me that I am around all these women and you have the wrong kind of thoughts going through your one track mind – behave - but more importantly you need to bear two things in mind –
One, for me it's like being a doctor – no big deal (stop calling me a liar) and two, most of you men as bad as you think you are, you know you can't handle two women at the same time, so imagine me having to deal with over 100 different women and every single one of them thinks she is something special (before I get into any trouble, ladies you were all very special – hopefully by saying this I have escaped with my life).
We had a few drama's but we got it done. Before I go onto chapter two I must talk about my fantastic Nigerian designers, i am referring to those that came from Nigeria not Nigerian designers that live in the UK. We are in season 3 of AFWL, so I now know the score, so when I was scheduling the fittings I moved most of the Nigerian designers that were coming from Nigeria all to the same day and I warned the team of what to expect and they did not disappoint me.
Despite them being sent the model board and them picking their models in advance, they arrived on the day and completely changed all of their models, I should ask for money back for my ink and all the wasted paper from printing off their model lists. it does not stop there, I had some designer that were given a fitting slot for Tuesday afternoon and they arrived on Wednesday evening – I am not joking I had a few like that. I had one designer who called me at 10am and said she would be there in the hour and she arrived at 7.30pm – for those of you that know me well – you already know what happened, before I even say it. I said sorry I can't do your fitting you need to come back the following morning at 8am and if you are late I won't fit you and you won't do the show.
Thats right, yes she was on time the next morning. Some of the designers were extremely rude, but I do understand why they were so and that cos they were trained by Alexander McQueen and are making millions of pounds every month. I say no more. As expected the second day of fittings was extremely more stressful. as i say this i must also be fair and say not all the designers took 2 hours to fit when they were only alloted 30 minutes and a number of them were on time, extremely professional and very well prepared.
It would not be fair to only say the designers were divas, as some of the models were no better and I had to ask a few to leave and the number one reason is this - you are booked to do a job and you take it voluntarily, no one held a gun to your head and then you arrive at the fitting and tell me that you want to leave by 3pm (we were to finish by 6pm), so that you can go to another casting – it's a bit like you being at work and telling your boss that instead of leaving work at 6pm you want to leave at 3pm so that you can start your other job early but you still expect your boss to pay you for the 3 hours that you are working somewhere else – I don't think so. The good thing is after sending a couple of models home we were left with the best and the two days of fittings went smoothly.
Chapter Two – Backstage
On the Thursday the day started very early for everyone as we had to be at the Old Truman Brewery (the venue) by 8.30am. The day started with some fittings for the designers that missed their fitting slot earlier in the week, then onto hair and makeup. As for me I was putting the final touches to the set design, sound and lighting working with the technical team and making sure everything was on point. I also did a walk through with the models and ensured they knew their routines and would walk like top models, we also did some filming for Arise TV which went out live. Hair was done by Mizani (L'Oreal – I know some of you would know that name better) and makeup was by Fashion Fair which was led by my main man Mr Gorgeous. So I had a great team behind me.
Throughout the entire 3 days of shows we had numerous film crews doing interviews and it seemed like 100's of photographers were always backstage taking pictures. Backstage this year was great as we had plenty of space so it was far easier to work and Malaika Mwaniki our head stylist was super well organised and ran it like a military camp.
Chapter Three – The Show
Our first show was at 4pm on the Thursday and the last show was at 8.30pm on the Saturday, throughout the 3 days we had 10 different shows and showcased over 60 plus designers. The range of designers was vast and the catwalk was an array of colours and styles ranged from street, to swimwear, to couture and was a mixture of student, new, aspiring and established designers. the youngest designer being 14 year old Tumisola Ladega, designers came from across the world including Switzerland, Zambia, Ghana, USA, Nigeria, the UK and South Africa. South Africa sent over a fantastic delegation of 9 of their best designers and in addition AFWL was privileged to have the phenomenal Thula Sindi showcase and it was nice working with one of Nigeria's hottest designers Zizi Cardow. I try not to mention designers individually but I loved working with Didi Creations, Moofa and Steve Mandy Designs who actually created a hand painted dress live on the catwalk whilst his collection was being showcased.
However in terms of producing a show, for me the one that I had most fun with and the designer that took it to another level in terms of the production of her designs, the thought behind her original music and me putting the finishing touches to her show was Elegante by tiannahstyling. It was one of the best shows I produced throughout AFWL and based on feedback, those that saw the show were blown away.
AFWL received press from across the world and was featured on the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Arise TV, the Flyer Newspaper, Naija Swagger and so many more media outlets, way too many to mention.
I must briefly talk about the music which was produced by AFWL music director Dj Homeboy of Homdiggy Muzik one of the top music production companies in the country, he had people on their feet throughout the whole show and people did not want the after party to end.
Chapter Four – What Else?
There was just so much going on, in terms of the exhibition – I managed to go round the exhibition area on the Saturday and I was amazed at the array of clothes, bags, shoes, food and services that were on display. The exhibition area was lively and vibrant, with music being played by DJ Abass. The women (and men) were dressed to kill and made sure that they would be noticed and they were. I saw men suffering from double vision as they did not know where to look when it came to the women that were at AFWL and those attending with their wives were being slapped around the head for comitting lookery.
This was generally a stress free show (not that any show can really be stress free) but I did not shout much and I think we had it locked down in terms of producing the show.
Chapter Five - The Dorchester
I bet some of you thought that it ended at the Old Turman Brewery on the Saturday, it did not as on the Sunday we had the African Arts & Fashion Exhibition which was a prestigious gala event hosted by AFWL life patron Princess Fifi Ejindu. The stars were out in force with the likes of Alexandra Burke, Bianca Jagger, June Sarpong, Nadia Buari, super model Noella Musunka, Singer Shingai Shoniwa, Misha B and was hosted by Sky TV presenter Lukwesa Burak and a great performance by the CEO Dancers, everyone seems to love them.
The event could not be complete without a fashion show which featured 8 of Africa's hottest designers – Zizi Cardow, Thula Sindi, Adebayo Jones, Sally Itiego, Moofa, Ella & Gabby, Gisella Boutique and Kitiko.
It was a very glamorous affair with a sumptuous three course dinner, I can only say that it looked sumptuous as I didn't get to eat any of it, but it looked good and it definitely made me hungry. I cant believe I did an event at the Dorchester and did not get to eat – Ronke I am upset oh.
Overall AFWL was amongst the best events I have produced in recent times and I must commend Ronke Ademiluyi the founder of AFWL and her team for a fantastic job that they did. More importantly she must be given credit for assisting designers that would not normally be given the chance to showcase at an international standard fashion week and she was able to bring the eyes of the world to the event.
Check out the album below as well as the different pictures and comments on my FACEBOOK PAGE – feel free to leave your comments.
It's enough now, go and do something else I am tired.