Salambo discovering Ethiopia
I attended for the first time the annual African Mosaique fashion show organised on Thursday night at the Sheraton hotel and featuring Ethiopian designers as well as guest designers from other African countries, this year being a Nigerian fashion designer based in NY. The event, high on the Addis social agenda, was attended, we were told, by a number of Ministers, wealthy business people as well as a battery of local reporters and photographers covering the event. Everything was staged like a highly professional fashion show, with a proper catwalk, sophisticated light and sound effects and a couple of attractive models presenting it. Judging by the number of cameras taking shots in all directions, it was a very important event.
The highlight of the show though wasn’t the handful of new collections presented on the catwalk but the auction which took place right after, and during which two items shown earlier were sold for charity: a long dress and a coat. To everybody’s surprise, the dress, a very simple yet stylish long black and pink arabic-style dress by the Nigerian designer Lola Faturoti, went for over 3,000 US$, purchased, it was rumoured, by a wealthy Ethiopian businessman (I couldn’t see the person bidding, I was sitting at the back). The coat itself, by the well-established Ethiopian label Paradise Fashion, didn’t do too badly either at 2,000 US$. Proceeds went to the Ethiopian Children’s Fund, an Ethiopian NGO providing education to some 750 destitute children and funded by Anna Getaneh, the Ethiopian clothes designer who also launched the African Mosaique event 15 years ago. The clothes themselves were interesting enough but not groundbreaking in terms of style and fashion. Of all of them, I preferred the collection by Paradise fashion, but still I wasn’t in awe.
As part of the event, the audience was asked to vote online using a wi-fi address set up for the occasion (mine didn’t work) to select one of three designers from the Bahar Dar University’s Institute of Textile and fashion Technology. Again, the young designers were in their infancy in terms of style and fashion if considered on a global level. However, the fact that such Institute now exists in Ethiopia reflects the country’s current wave of change as well as its strong will to move away from a predominantly agricultural economy into new spheres of business. According to the Ethiopian Business Review, which recently published a study by Knight Frank Consulting, the number of millionaires in US$ living in Ethiopia grew to 2,007, representing a rise of 108 percent from six years ago, showing again that Ethiopia is a fast growing economy. Maybe they are the ones bidding at fashion auctions and giving a little back to charity.