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Accra fashion week fights for women empowerment

A model gets her make-up done prior to the Accra Fashion Week in Ghana on October 7, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS


Accra / AFP

As the music booms and the lights flare, a model sashays down the runway at Accra Fashion Week in Ghana. But the focus isn’t on her high-waisted black pleather skirt, it’s on something more risqué: her sheer, very tight top. “Everyone should be able to express themselves and not be oppressed in any way,” said designer Josefa Da Silva, an effervescent 29-year-old sporting a halo of ink-blue hair. The designer was showcasing her collection with models wearing floor length dresses made of quilted faux leather and glittering gold and silver visors.
Da Silva, a native of Cape Verde based in the United States, isn’t afraid to make a statement with her designs. Earlier this year she made headlines for including Madeline Stuart, a model with Down’s Syndrome, in a runway show. “I think that my design is a little bit more futuristic,” she said. “I know that over here it’s probably a little bit more conservative, and mine is on the other side — high fashion.” Confidently showing skin and being a feminist go hand-in-hand, says Cameroonian designer Irene Nuvi, who was showing her Nuvi Creative Fashion Legacy collection.
“The time has come where you don’t judge a woman any longer in what she is putting on,” the 36-year-old said. “You don’t judge a girl because she’s put on a short skirt. It doesn’t make her irresponsible.”
Hard times may have hit Ghana, which is experiencing its slowest economic growth in decades, but the fashion industry is going strong. Accra Fashion Week is just one of three major fashion events taking place in the West African country in October, while there are a plethora of other fairs and shows happening throughout the year.
South African designer Tanya Kagnaguine drew inspiration from pop star turned feminist crusader Beyonce and human rights icon Nelson Mandela to help women “channel their inner goddess”. Like the other designers, she stands by her revealing designs.
“Sometimes there is a bit of a shock,” Kagnaguine said. “But I want people to feel free. Men can wear what they want, so why can’t women wear what they want?” Accra Fashion Week organiser Nana Tamakloe wanted the event to highlight locally designed clothing. Empowering women through fashion has been a bonus, he said.

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