MILAN — “Only by joining forces we will be able to really make a difference on diversity and inclusion,” believes Michelle Francine Ngonmo, founder of the Afro Fashion Association. “It’s a trendy topic right now and everyone thinks they are doing it better than others.”
Accordingly, a roster of events was organized to mark the 10th anniversary of Afro Fashion Week, the annual event held in tandem with Milan Fashion Week to spotlight designers of diverse backgrounds. The sophomore edition of the Black Carpet Awards will be held next February.
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Not many details were disclosed, except for a date: Feb. 25, with a pledge to expand the awards’ scope to other categories, and the aim to take it international. The Black Carpet Awards, launched in February, are geared at celebrating leaders of change based in Italy and belonging to underrepresented communities who are active in creative and entrepreneurial industries, including fashion, design, food, music, sport and cinema, among others.
Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, thanked Ngonmo for her contribution to championing diversity in Italian fashion.
“Michelle has nurtured a beautiful story and we’re happy to be a part of it as much as our resources allow. It’s amazing to be able to grow together and find new, strong, and perhaps challenging ways to keep collaborating, because that’s what emerging designers and artists deserve,” he said.
Overall, the Afro Fashion Association — which has been promoting diversity, equity and inclusion since its founding, spotlighting talents of diverse backgrounds with an original focus on the African continent — rejigged the Afro Fashion Week format, underscoring that steps in the right direction have been made and its commitment to inclusion has garnered established partners.
New talents from diverse backgrounds were spotlighted at the second event organized by the association this past week. On Wednesday the rooms of Milan’s Palazzo Morando on central Via Sant’Andrea became the stage for the “¡GloLoCo!” exhibition, its moniker a nod to the global backgrounds of talents on show and the local manufacturing of their collections.
These included South African designers Michael Ludwig Studio, the Bam Collective, and Refuse Clothing, as well as five up-and-comers at their debut: Rahel Ercolini, Khalifa Omar Farhat, Rachel Tay Za, Udeesha Singh and Amina Vanneling. Second Chance Collective and Cameroon’s Laba Douala Free Academy of Fine Arts were also part of the event, hosting workshops, as well as and showing artworks by Rory Scott and Serwah Attafuah.
The exhibition included a high-tech component courtesy of a collaboration with the metaverse-born Red-Eye magazine and its founder Gloria Maria Cappelletti, a Milan-based art and fashion curator and a champion of digital art.
Digital screens highlighted new technology and software geared at the democratization of the creative process, such as the Gn3ra digital customization platform that allows outfit personalization, co-creation and avatar integration; Spin.Fashion, a phygital marketplace which helps build digital looks twinning physical garments, and Chromakairos, a NFT design tool.
Following the opening night on Sept. 19, the exhibition space was open to the public and hosted workshops throughout the week. The exhibition could also be enjoyed via Red-Eye’s metaverse space on Spatial.io.
Ngonmo and designer Edward Buchanan, a mentor and supporter of the Afro Fashion Association alongside Stella Jean, took to the stage to introduce the concept behind “¡GloLoCo!”, dubbed as an annual event as part of the Afro Fashion Association’s efforts to refresh Afro Fashion Week.
“This is the 10th edition of Afro Fashion Week and combining fashion and technology seemed the most appropriate, as a way to highlight new tools helping creatives achieve what they’d love to do,” Ngonmo said.
She reiterated how visibility is not enough for up-and-coming fashion designers, who also need retail exposure to keep funding their projects. “True allies see the needs and jump into action,” echoed Buchanan, introducing Aldo Carpinteri, founder of luxury multibrand retailer Modes, a partner in the event.
Capping off Milan Fashion Week, the association hosted a cocktail at Modes’ Milan store on Piazza Risorgimento on Monday night to celebrate four brands that are part of the Afro Fashion Association, Zenam, Karim Daoudi, Laba Douala, and Step-Out, whose creations are displayed in the retailer’s windows until Oct. 6.
“Michelle has been very courageous to do something like this and offer everyone an opportunity,” Capasa said.
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