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Suzy Menkes Международный редактор VOGUE

Generation Africa: Models Included

18 января 2016

Which of the models walking the runway at the Generation Africa show in Florence were asylum seekers? The point was that even the catwalk pros could not tell – according to Simone Cipriani, founder of The Ethical Fashion Initiative.

From left, Walé Oyéjidé of Ikiré Jones; Gozi Ochonogor of U.Mi-1; Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts; Lai-momo president, Andrea Marchese; Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative; and Jody Paulsen and Keith Henning of AKJP. The designers showcased their Autumn/Winter 2016 collections in Florence at Pitti Uomo 89, highlighting the creative and contemporary fashion culture emanating from the African continent 

AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen. In 2015, AKJP was one of the finalists at Vogue Italia’s Who Is On Next? Dubai 
AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen

By teaming up with the Pitti Discovery Foundation, part of the Pitti menswear fair in Florence, designers from across Africa were invited to present their collections for the second time. 

The idea, confirmed by Lapo Cianchi, head of Special Projects at Pitti Imagine, is to bring emerging designers under the spotlight, “both in terms of communication and real business opportunities”.

Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé. With every collection, the brand places a strong emphasis on societal issues that affect immigrant and transient populations

Ethical fashion partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organisation that welcomes asylum-seekers to Italy and promotes cross-cultural exchanges between Africa and Europe. 

I am sorry that it has taken a humanitarian disaster for Italy to welcome more models of African origin on the catwalk. But I’m confident that fashion can embrace the diversity of peoples, as well as of clothing, on runways across the world.

Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé 
South Africans Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts collaborated on this collection but have their own separate brands. The design partnership combines Mdingi’s minimalist approach with Coutts’ distinctive signature weaving style 
Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts  

U.Mi-1 (pronounced designed by Nigerian Gozi Ochonogor, whose collections are a blend of British tailoring's aesthetic with Japanese artisanship and African spirit 
U.Mi-1 by Gozi Ochonogor

Selected and supported by ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, this was the second showcase of the African Designer Programme at Florence’s Menswear tradeshow, Pitti Uomo, to raise awareness of African fashion as well as social issues.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organisation working with migrants, and cast three asylum seekers as models in the show. 

“Africa is one of today’s creative poles and this show proves that African designers speak about art, life and innovation. At the same time, we are in an age in which many Africans come to Europe as migrants. We believe in a programme that enables them to work in the value chain of fashion,” said Simone Cipriani, Head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

Picture credit: Alberto Maddaloni /

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