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Ghana fashion takes the catwalk

Designers aim to build international reputations for their stylish clothes.

But, more than just creating fancy couture clothing, designers like Adegbe see their role as a catalyst for job creation and economic development on the continent.

“It will help to put business on a lot of people’s tables,” Adegbe said. “The population is large in Africa. So if they are all buying clothes that are made in Africa, then that is good business for a lot of African designers.”

Already a number of independent designers have been able to employ themselves and a small workforce to sketch, cut and sew their collections. But they have trouble pushing their miniature operations to the next level. Adegbe says that there are no factories in Nigeria capable of mass-producing his pieces. Even though he’s had interest from European buyers, he can’t keep up with the sheer quantity of clothes they demand.

Although many designers start small, the organizers of Ghana Fashion Weekend are working for nothing less than a fashion revolution. They aim to change not only the way the rest of the world views fashion in Africa, but also how people at home relate to the industry. Although local tailors’ shops are common throughout Ghana, many Ghanaians just didn’t get the point of a fashion show. According to Ghana Fashion Weekend Exhibition Director, Kofi Essel, “When a lady moves on a catwalk they say, ‘What is wrong with this girl? [She] just wears a dress, turns off, shows everybody and then she goes away.’ They just didn’t understand why somebody should do that first of all.”

But the organizers are encouraged by the showing at this year’s show — and optimistic about the future of what they see as an annual event in the country. Even though there were technical difficulties with lights and sound from time to time during the event, on the last day, the auditorium was packed and the large crowd cheered for their homegrown models and designers.