Friday, January 15, 2016


One of the world’s most important menswear fairs, Pitti Uomo, has teamed up for the second time with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) to present four African designers at its biannual event, with asylum seekers participating as models.

AKJP's show at Pitti Uomo.
 (Photo: Giovanni Giannona)
On Jan. 14, the rising brands Ikiré JonesU.Mi-1, AKJP, and Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts showcased their Autumn / Winter 2016 collections in Florence at Pitti Uomo 89, under the title "Generation Africa".

The presentation followed a successful first edition with Pitti Uomo last June, when the EFI selected and supported four stylists for its African Designer Programme. That show was highly rated by fashion experts, but critics said that the runway models did not reflect enough diversity.

This year, as “part of its mandate to raise awareness not only on African fashion but also on social issues”, the Ethical Fashion Initiative said it partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organisation working with migrants, to cast three asylum seekers to participate as models in the show.

Ikire Jones design.
 (Photo: G. Giannona) 
“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 program that enables them to work in the value chain of fashion,” said Simone Cipriani, EFI’s director and founder.

Lai-momo assists asylum-seekers in Italy and promotes cross-cultural exchanges between Africa and Europe “with the aim of reducing stereotypes and preconceptions”, organizers said.

The EFI, founded in 2009, is a flagship programme of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. It has worked with leading designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Stella Jean to facilitate the development and production of “high-quality, ethical fashion items” from artisans living in low-income rural and urban areas.

For the past two years, it has been expanding its scope so that African designers can have greater access to global events. The four brands showcased at Pitti Uomo this month represent South Africa (AKJP and Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts) and Nigeria (Ikiré Jones and U.Mi-1), although the designers call other countries home as well. -  McKenzie / Tasshon

Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts. (Photo: Giovanni Giannona)