Asian designers hit town as part of AFI Joburg Fashion Week

Silk fur and raffia lace are just two of the fascinating innovations being shown by designers as part of an #AfroAsia collaboration at Africa Fashion International Joburg Fashion Week

07 October 2018 - 00:00 By Andrea Nagel

"Fashion is instant language." So said world-famous designer Miuccia Prada. If that statement is true we should all be having more conversations.
The organisers behind Africa Fashion International (AFI) Joburg Fashion Week, which is on at Melrose Arch, certainly think so, and they've partnered with some of Asia's top designers to start a dialogue - #AfroAsia.
Designers Eric Raisina from Cambodia, AntiArch from Shanghai and 5-Knot from Japan are in Joburg to present their collections.
Raisina was born in Madagascar, where he won "New Young Designer of the Year" at the Fashion Festival and Textile Competition in 1993. The award enabled him to study textiles and fashion at École Des Arts Appliqués Duperré Paris on a scholarship and he later received a Master's degree from the Institut Français de la Mode.
"I love working with natural fibres because of their beautiful textures and organic flexibility. 'Silk Fur', made of silk organza, and 'Raffia Lace', made of natural raffia, are two of my innovations," he says.
AntiArch is a menswear label founded by Oliver Weiyu Zhang, who studied architecture design in the US. He spent his final year of study in Tokyo, Japan, where he changed direction and decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry. He then studied at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he won a "Designer of the Year" award.
Ena Kizawa and Taketo Nishino are the creative talents behind 5-Knot, which won the coveted DHL Designer Award last year. The brand was started in 2013 with their "Journey and Vintage" collection, inspired by landscapes and scenery, towns, culture and vintage items.
The founder and CEO of AFI, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, says: "AFI Joburg Fashion Week 2018 is a platform for our best and most adventurous designers to showcase their work. It is also an opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas and knowledge with their peers, intersecting Africa with Asia.
"We are excited by the prospect of different takes on street style, for example. This is one of the hottest fashion trends globally and African fashionistas love to bring their own flair into how they wear their brands and celebrate Africa's design heritage, especially its fabrics. This will offer an inspiring new ingredient and a fresh edge to African fashion."
Paul Leisegang, head of global partnerships for AFI, explains: "The initial objective of AFI was to package and promote African talent to the rest of the world. and these kinds of partnerships do just that. We have partnered with all the major fashion capitals, but have not done so with Asia until now. The question is why not? It's one of the biggest markets in the world."
Another reason for this collaboration, he says, is that, like the SA fashion industry, the Asian industry is driven by culture.
The partnership is long term, offering both sides an opportunity to learn from the other to cultivate an exchange of ideas. This exchange will take place twice a year for three years with Asian designers coming to South Africa and South African designers going to the Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week.
"We chose to invite them to Joburg because it is such a melting pot of cultures," says Leisegang. "It's been wonderful to see that Africans and Asians talk the same fashion language."

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