African Style Makes History at Paris Haute Couture Week

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For the first time in the history of Paris haute couture fashion week, African style makes its first appearance on the runway of the biannual event. The designs were created by a Cameroonian designer Imane Ayissi who blended European style with African flair for a catwalk collection, marking the first time a designer from sub-Saharan Africa had joined the Paris haute couture fashion week.

Ayissi who started designing at a young age made outfits for his mother, a one-time winner of the Miss Cameroon beauty pageant in the 60s. Ayissi at some point moved into modeling, when he relocated to Paris thirty years ago. He walked the runway for high-end stylists like Yves Saint-Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, and Lanvin. But later decided to commit himself fully to working as a designer, defining a style he described as minimal, sleek and elegant “with a certain mastery of fabric and form”.

“It’s an honour”, Ayissi, told Reuters at the just concluded Paris haute couture fashion week backstage before the show, referring to the decision, after many years of knocking him back, to finally admit him to the select club of haute couture fashion houses showing in Paris.

“I have been fighting for 28 years, dedicated all my life to the work. The French Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion opened its door to me after it rejected my application many times, because it was not the right time or my work did not match with expectations. But this time, it worked”, he said.

His show was chosen to close this year’s edition of the fashion week. During the show audience watched models walked down the runway in a Paris hotel, showing off gowns in the contemporary Western fashion style but with a different blend of organic Faso Dan Fani (a cotton cloth from Burkina Faso woven) while soundtrack of African music played at the background.

It was a beautiful sight, portraying Africa’s promising future.

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