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Surreal and striking: Enter the 'Alien Cartoon' universe

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 5:47 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane transformed Dakar's 100-year-old train station into an alien base for her latest collection. Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane transformed Dakar's 100-year-old train station into an alien base for her latest collection.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Selly Raby Kane is a young Senegalese fashion designer based in Dakar
  • Her latest collection, "Alien Cartoon," was unveiled inside the city's old train station
  • The work features striking creations with a quirky futuristic edge
  • Kane is part of an exciting crop of Senegalese artists that want to have their voices heard

Dakar, Senegal (CNN) -- The aliens have landed -- and they look rather fabulous.

Centuries rolled forward and outfits got quirkier in the heart of Dakar late last month as Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane showed off her futuristic creations for her latest collection, "Alien Cartoon."

Set in 2244, the dazzling show transformed Dakar's 100-year-old deserted train station into a whimsical space where humans co-existed alongside strange and mysterious creatures -- from alien invaders and giant metallic insects to a massive inflatable octopus whose glowing tentacles stretched throughout the historic building.

"Alien Cartoon is a story about an African invaded city where weird, fantastic and sci-fi creatures evolve among human beings," says Kane. "My collection is an answer to what the consequences of the invasion would be on women's and men's wardrobes, on music, on architecture -- what would that city look like? What would its inhabitants wear?"

The octopus installation inside Dakar's old train station.
Jean Baptiste Joire

'Surreal universe'

The answers were both eye-catching and grandiose. More than just a fashion show, "Alien Cartoon" brought together nearly 120 models, actors, musicians and art performers who created an otherworldly experience for some 2,000 spectators.

Fashion that turns back hands of time

Read this: Luxury shoes put sparkle in your step

Amid the giant installations, streams of models in translucent parkas, quilted tops, full-length jumpsuits, leather prints and LED accessories paced up and down the runway to the sound of hypnotic electronic beats. Blending urban culture with strong pop art influences, Kane's structured creations nodded to the fantasy worlds staged by directors like Tim Burton, while being firmly rooted in Dakar.

"It was important to confront the Senegalese audience with a fashion point of view that is alternative, playful and inhabited by that surreal universe," says Kane.

Selly Raby Kane's eye-catching creations lit up the catwalk.
Jean Baptiste Joire

Passion for fashion

The talented designer is part of an exciting and ambitious generation of young Senegalese artists that want to share their creative visions both locally and internationally.

I am addicted to everything that makes me leave Earth and discover other things, other realities.
Selly Raby Kane, fashion designer

A member of the artistic collective "Les Petites Pierres," Kane first started drawing clothes at a young age while growing up in Dakar. After high school, she went on to study business and law but her love for fashion never wavered -- in 2008, Kane created her first collection and two years later she headed to France for fashion studies. She then returned to Senegal and in 2012 Kane presented her "Be Street" collection, a massive urban decor production that paid tribute to street art through music and cinema.

"I have very strong cinematographic references," says the young designer on a hot May afternoon, sitting inside the Les Petites Pierres compound in a dusty neighborhood of southwestern Dakar.

"I am addicted to everything that makes me leave Earth and discover other things, other realities," adds Kane. "From my first fashion show and the first time I've presented my collection there has been a small evolution and everything is going to that path; that fantastic and surreal approach of what a garment is."

The base of the Les Petites Pierres collective in Dakar.
Teo Kermeliotis/CNN

'This is who I am'

That journey culminated last month with "Alien Cartoon" and now Kane says she's determined to continue developing her brand and collaborating with other artists.

Yet, the road has not always been free of hurdles. "Fashion in other countries is more organized," says Kane. "When you are a young designer [abroad] you know where you have to go, where you have to produce your pieces, where you can distribute it. Everything is organized, and here you have to do it yourself."

She quickly adds, however, that these challenges only serve to motivate her to push her boundaries and work harder.

"This is who I am, this is where I live and it's important for me to do it here," says Kane. "I have the feeling it really matters -- it really inspires other people and I am inspired as well by the people surrounding me," she says. "It makes sense to do it here, on the continent, and after, maybe when we get bigger, go somewhere [else] -- but we have a duty to develop things from here."

Read this: Luxury shoes put sparkle in your step

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