The 4th Annual African Fashion Week (AFW) celebrates the latest and freshest African inspired styles starting at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12 at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave.
Christianah Ajanaku, AFW founder and director, said she was inspired to launch the event and brand under the same name to shine a spotlight on African music, art, and of course, fashion. She said she noticed in recent years African fabrics were represented in fashion shows in Los Angeles and New York City, which prompted her to do the same in Chicago.
Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Ajanaku’s family moved to the United States in 1996, but not before she was able to gain an appreciation for the designs, colors, and fabrics she first encountered as a youth.
“Growing up I was surrounded by fashion,” said Ajanaku. “I was surrounded by colors, different materials that are not common here like the ankara. Coming to America, we lost a little bit of that, those materials aren’t readily available.”
Producing AFW is not Ajanaku’s only job as she also works as a professional recruiter. She said juggling her two professions in years past became so daunting that she had to take days off of work leading up to the week of events to personally attend to events. This year, the AFW fashion show and the new fashion show wrap party will be the only events held for the week. She estimates more than 200 people will be in attendance at the show. She said while this year’s AFW does not currently have sponsors, she would “love” to secure several at the local, national, and international levels. She credited several members of her team for lending a hand.
“We had a couple events throughout this whole year and now we are doing something different so we’re hoping to grow, and as we grow, it will turn into a full-blown week of production,” said Ajanaku.
Social media has been one of Ajanaku’s best tools in which she has used to bring AFW to life. She said social media has served as a great source for how she’s been able to find the pieces to put the show together. She said in instances where prospective designers wanted to participate in the show, they were taken through a vetting process to determine if their collection fit the vision of AFW for that year. She said she selects designers to be in the show via social media, through word of mouth, and from past experiences.
“I am constantly looking for designers because I am constantly looking for an opportunity to showcase their work,” said Ajanaku. “A lot of our designers are up and coming designers which I like. That way AFW gives them an opportunity to showcase their talent and showcase their style.”
Models selected to walk in AFW are most commonly selected by the designers themselves through casting calls, said Ajanaku. However, some are discovered via social media, too.
Both men’s and women’s clothing will be featured in this year’s fashion show. The designers this year are: Binta Sagale, RogueBear, RuvaAfricWear, and ILAVA. ILAVA is particularly unique due to its mission to empower women and inspire change throughout the World through its lifestyle brand, according to its website.
Ajanaku said she plans to return home in the near future and secure more designers to participate in AFW events to come.
To learn more about Binta Sagale and shop, visit bintasagale.com/,
To learn more about RuvaAfricWear and shop, visit ruvaafricwear.com/.
For more information about ILAVA, visit myilava.com/about.
Ultimately, Ajanaku said she wants to end the fashion “drought” that appears to be in Chicago. She said she wants to expand AFW to include international designers and put Chicago on the map.
For more information about AFW Chicago the brand or the upcoming fashion show, visit facebook.com/AFWChicago/.