How African Fashion Week in Vancouver is Changing Fashion

The annual AFAM Fashion show is bringing African cultures to the front and adding life to Vancouver fashion

Emma Mendez (she/her/they/them) // Culture Editor 

When one thinks of so-called Vancouver and fashion, aside from Vancouver Fashion week,  you probably don’t think of there being much else when it comes to fashion, yet to your surprise, or maybe not, February 2022 brought with it the fourth annual AFAM African Fashion Week

Yao Zeus Mohammed founded the African Fashion Arts Movement (AFAM) in 2018. AFAM’s African Fashion week is considered the largest exhibition and trade show of African fashion in so-called B.C.  Both a celebration of African cultures and Black History month, the show not only showcases local designers of African descent, but also Black designers of African descent located in the so-called United States, parts of Europe and Africa. Although fashion-focused, the event also features music, awards, dance and a marketplace.  

Wanting to get a designer’s perspective on the impact African Fashion Week has had on the fashion industry in Vancouver, Ogechukwu Ajibe (she/her) is a Black Vancouver designer and founder of Oge Ajibe, an ethical, sustainable, slow fashion clothing brand established in 2018, who’s dressed attendees and the moderator in the last two years. She shared her thoughts on African Fashion week, “it’s putting Africa on the map,” she explained, “bringing the culture back to life.”

Colour is also a focal point of the show and ties to the impact that the movement has had on the local industry. With the drastic difference in fashion compared to Nigeria, where she immigrated from, she also notes the lack of colour that was part of the general style locally. African Fashion week changed this, expanding people’s minds within the local fashion industry. Ajibe described it as, “showing the beauty of our fabrics, our colors, which for some reason is unlike here in Vancouver…it’s nice for people to see something different from what they already know and do.”

As African Fashion week continues to make an impact and reach more audiences in so-called Vancouver and so-called B.C, Ajibe hopes that designers, especially Black designers, are more appreciated and supported within the fashion industry and on a business level. She also hopes for more education on African cultures, African fashion and the work that goes into making African clothing.  

On a wider scale, the show has also brought communities together through the love of fashion and celebration of African cultures, while also giving the spotlight to Black designers. “They can come out in their best attire all lit up with their African pride,” Ajibe said excitedly. “Fashion brings people together, no matter your skin color, or wherever you are from, no matter what you believe in,” said Ajibe. “It’s something we all have in common.” 

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