Saturday, January 30, 2016


The United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, got indirectly involved with Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week when it named the renowned African designer Sidahmed Alphadi Seidnaly an Artist for Peace on Jan. 25.

Alphadi speaking at UNESCO.
As runway shows took place around the French capital, the organization hosted a packed ceremony at its headquarters that included a presentation of Alphadi’s cutting-edge designs, which combine modern looks with traditional influences.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova said that the nomination was in recognition of Alphadi’s “commitment to culture and development at the service of peace, respect and human dignity, and for his contribution to the promotion of tolerance”.

Among the designer’s accomplishments is the creation of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), which he launched in 1998 in a section of the Sahara desert - under the auspices of UNESCO.

The Festival has since become a place of “exchange and dialogue between cultures from all over the world”, the UN agency said.

Two of Alphadi's designs.
As a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Alphadi - who was born in Mali and grew up in Niger - will work to transform FIMA into an itinerant event so that the next editions may take place in other African countries, notably Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, UNESCO said.

The designer intends to develop the educational aspects of the festival as well.

At the Paris ceremony, Alphadi said he would work to promote peace, economic development and culture. “We need to create a world of love and lasting peace,” he told spectators. “I will use all my energies to build peace through fashion and the arts.”


Elsewhere in the city, fashion was being used to lift morale with a similar explosion of colour and creativity, amidst the grey weather. The stand-out designers of the week included Hong Kong-born, Australia-based Bowie Wong and Paris-based Julien Fournié, among others.

Bowie Wong
Each designer’s Spring-Summer 2016 collection pushed boundaries and worked to “reinterpret the elements of designs”, to use Wong’s words.

The stylist said that fashion creates a certain freedom of expression, but that it is through “learning to express ourselves” that fashion itself can be crafted.

Wong said that his show, titled “ABC123” was inspired by the playful self-expression of Japanese schoolgirls who create unique ways in which to style their school uniforms. “This is my most Japanese collection,” he told Tasshon.

His assured use of red, black and white, and the repetition of light-hearted motifs such as sailor collars and bow ties made for a memorable defilé in the grand lobby of the Peninsula Hotel.

Earlier in the week, Fournié equally drew on black and red, but went for a glamour-on-the-shore theme with his “First Paradise” show. Spectators were meant to be soothed by the rhythm of waves (evoked in music composed by John Barry), as they imagined themselves sailing on the high seas.

Julien Fournie  
Viewers also had to envision the Oratoire du Louvre, where the show was held, as something of a “fashion Eden, full of mystery and voluptuousness”.

Those without such vivid imaginations could, of course, just focus on the clothes: a fitted cocktail dress with large tropical flowers, or fitted pants combined with a draped jacket in a “papaya shade”.

According to his company, Fournié dared to use “the entire palette of oceanic rainforest fruits and blossoms: from saturated dragon-fruit pink to mangosteen deep purple or the intense green of philodendron leaves”.

The collection was indeed colourful and daring, with some of the more risqué clothing - revealing quite a bit of skin - apparently meant to emphasize the concept of being ocean-bound and carefree.

The fussier garments of bright, billowing fabric might not have appealed to all the sea-faring spectators’ taste, but the collection did combine luxury and ready-to-wear styles in an appealing, innovative way.  - Tasshon

Bowie Wong