Reading time: 4min.

by Mariah Feria

Fashion and animals – Angola Fashion Week 2016

Africa is not usually known for its fashion weeks; instead, we leave it to the cities of London, Paris and New York to show the world what being ‘fashionable’ really means. However, one overlooked and increasingly popular event is taking place in Angola every year – Angola Fashion Week.

This year, models and designers alike flocked to the southern African nation, for what is deemed Africa’s best fashion event. Worldwide names such as Tom Ford by Du Carmo, shared a runway with the lesser known talents from Angola’s Fashion School. Popular ex-Victoria Secret’s Angel Shiram Diniz, who has also been lucky enough to feature on Vogue and GQ, also handed over their catwalk to more up and coming faces. These included Portuguese born Débora Montenegro, who is usually accustomed to advertising campaigns and TV shows within her country. Regardless of their experience, all models took to the stage in strides to showcase the rich, bold, earthy colours that featured heavily on the pieces this year – a return to the traditional dress of a united Africa was definitely witnessed.

The event proved to be a huge success, connecting Africa to the global fashion scene on a serious scale. However, what I found most interesting was the theme of the fashion week – the Giant Sable Antelope. Thought to be extinct until 2005, the antelope oozes royalty, is majestic, and a powerful creature. It is not surprising that this magnificent animal was chosen to represent Angola’s fashion enterprise; you can just imagine it elegantly making its way down the centre-stage runway.

Animals are heavily featured in a lot of popular African culture, so I was not really surprised that such an iconic animal had been selected as the theme for a fashion event. Reading more about it and its connections to the ancient Angolan plains, only further emphasized the clarity of the decision. The main ‘headliners’ of the event in June were also the Angola Fashion School, meaning that the students had a chance to develop a piece that reflected something close to home.

As well as fashion, the African animal kingdom is represented in many parts of their society. When I took a course in African Literature and Culture last year, I learnt more about just how important the connection to the natural really was. Besides from the obvious metaphorical comparisons in literature, religious ceremonies and ancient traditions also feature certain animals. Many African tribes and cultures also believe that certain creatures have souls, and reserve a special place in their community for them.

The Giant Sable Antelope, in particular, is also only found in a specific part of Angola – the Malanje Province. This makes the theme of Angola Fashion Week even more magical and unique; the creators are bringing this rare species of antelope into the lens of the global fashion community. Compare this to the other notorious fashion weeks, and they seem to lose some of their charm and authenticity. They have instead became high-end, exclusive events, often surrounded by criticism and controversy.

You can find out more about this unique event online, and also find more information about the models and collaborators featured. It is refreshing and exciting to see a piece of new African culture catapulted into the limelight this year, and hopefully their status continues to rise. However, what I find most comforting is the creator’s efforts to continue to stay strong to their roots and the importance of the natural world. Perhaps this is something that the rest of the fashion community could learn from.

Gallery Images via Angola Fashion Week the official Facebook page.