Dakar: 'Capital of Franco-African fashion'

Story highlights

  • Dakar's annual fashion week carving name as international draw
  • First launched by Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye, founder of label Adama Paris
  • Organizers hope to one day reach heights of Paris and New York
  • Majority of designers and models hail from across Africa

It may not have the allure of Paris or New York but Dakar in Senegal is quickly making a name for itself as a force to be reckoned with in the fashion stakes.

The 10th annual Dakar Fashion Week wrapped on Sunday, attracting an international audience to its showcase of African collections.

A decade after Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye launched the first show, Dakar has now earned itself the unique title of being the capital of Franco-African fashion.

It's an important milestone for a country few would associate with high-end fashion.

Fashion analyst Helen Jennings says this year's event, attended by the "godfather of African fashion" Alphadi, cemented Dakar's reputation.

Jennings, the editor of Arise, a London-based African fashion magazine, pointed to the important differences between English and French-inspired fashion on the continent.

"Anglophone Africa is much more westernized on the whole and therefore gets more international attention. While Francophone designers, although still very contemporary, do veer toward more traditional styles, especially the Senegalese boubou and north African kaftan.

"It made for a refreshing change to see these influences on the catwalk."

However, she added that Dakar was by no means the capital of African fashion: "Without a doubt those capitals are Nigeria (host of Arise Magazine Fashion week) and South Africa (which runs Africa Fashion Week)."

Watch: African street fashion

The African fashion industry's growth in recent years is part of a wider economic boom on the continent, says Jennings.

"Whereas previously Africa was only seen as a source of anthropological inspiration for international brands, now its homegrown talents are standing up and being counted too and riding the wave of interest in Africa's broader cultural and economic ascension," she said.

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"Established names such as Duro Olowu in London, Xuly Bët in Paris, Kofi Ansah in Ghana, Jewel By Lisa in Lagos and Marianne Fassler in Johannesburg are inspiring younger talents while more and more African fashion weeks, magazines, websites, boutiques and schools are blossoming."

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While the global economic downturn has hit Europe hard, African countries have remained fairly resilient since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a recent joint report from researchers McKinsey & Company and advertising agency TBWA.

The report - The Changing Face of the African consumer - surveyed 15,000 people across 10 countries. It claims the growth of Africa's population, expansion of the middle class and rising optimism about the continent's future will play a crucial role in the development of its retail industry.

"Africa's economic growth is creating substantial new business opportunities that are often overlooked by global companies," it said.

The boom is good news for Dakar Fashion Week founder Ndiaye, who hopes the show will one day reach the heights of Paris and New York -- yet with a distinctly African style.

Watch: Traditional dress of Senegal

Bright colors, bold traditional African prints and a touch of old Hollywood glamor dominated the catwalks throughout the week, held from June 12 to 17.

Designers hailed from across the continent, such as Lebanese-Ivorian Elien Kuame, whose elegant cocktail dresses blended both western and African traditional styles.Senegalese designer Maguette Gueye utilized traditional African prints, while compatriot Mamta Lopy concentrated on a more sultry, western style.

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