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African Designers Shine At Fashion Week
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Black beauty was celebrated for the third season at the ARISE African Collective Part III. Arise is the first global style and culture magazine to celebrate African achievement in fashion and arts.

This season, they selected South African designersJacques Van Der Watt and Danica Lepen for Black Coffee, Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe and Tanzanian designer Anisa Mpungwe for Loin Cloth & Ashes, who presented their collections to a packed house at the main tent at Bryant Park in New York City. Show producer Jan Malan transformed the tent into a virtual African day-and-night landscape with elaborate staging inspired by award-winning poet Ben Okri.

Black Voices was there for the gorgeous show and backstage excitement. "I'm always excited to walk in ARISE because I've been doing it for the last three seasons, and it's great to come together with all top faces in fashion right now," said supermodel in the making Chanel Iman. Backstage at the show, she dished that she has to have her cell phone, iPod and Rose Bed lip gloss to get her through fashion week.

We ran into one of our favorite Dominican beauties, Arlenis Sosa, who shared the reasons she loves walking in ARISE. "What I love about ARISE is that it highlights the beauty of so many different brown skin tones. Women everywhere can see someone who looks like them on the runway, and that's inspiring."

We chatted with the always sweet Sessilee Lopez, a haute young American girl, who is currently ranked the #13 model in fashion, about fashion week moving to Lincoln Center. "It's sad to leave the tents, but it's a new beginning. I'm excited since I live in Harlem that everyone is heading Uptown!" Taking a break from the catwalk, supermodel Veronica Webb was backstage interviewing designers for a program she is hosting for Fashion Week TV.

"Africa is an emerging market and the basis of so much style and influence on American life," Webb said of the significance of ARISE at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. "If you think about it, soul music, rock and roll, hip-hop, Motown in the '70s...it's really nice to go back to the mother ship and have this influence here in New York to give us more strength and more roots."

Nduka Obaigbena, chairman and CEO of Leaders & Co., parent company to London-based ARISE and Nigeria's best-selling newspaper THISDAY said that the ARISE runway show will create and promote positive images to its global readership and even encourage investment in African nations.

"Our tomorrow is bright," he said. "Showing for the third consecutive season at Bryant Park and in a larger venue is a testament to the continued success of our initiatives. I look forward to what is sure to be an amazing usage of African visual aesthetics recreated on the catwalk."

The first designer down the catwalk was Black Coffee, the 2009 winner of the Mercedes-Benz Award for Fashion. This design duo is headed up by Danica Lepen and Jacques van der Watt, a graduate of Leggatts Design Academy in Johannesburg, who started the line in 1998 while South Africa was searching for a new identity. The pair sent down the catwalk oversize coats with feminine details in muted hues like peach and camel.

With celebrity fans like Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith, Tanzanian-born designer Anisa Mpungwe has quickly made a name for herself. Mpungwe launched her label Loin Cloth and Ashes in August 2008 and crafts up designs that stay true to an aesthetic that has a definitive African feel.

Her collections are defined by touches of woven fabrics and accessories like cowries, crystals, and beads. For fall/winter 2010, Mpungwe was inspired by an origami bird motif, and her collection stood out like a piece of art. Bib like blue necklaces adorned the models' necks, giving a pop of contrast against Mpungwe's monochromatic palette of urban blacks and grays.

The most daring and edgy collection of the evening was by Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe, who was a crowd favorite of the night. Known for creating fashions with hidden detailing, Sagoe made a strong statement on the runway showing pieces with sculpted architectural shapes. We loved the structured shoulders on the jackets and mini-dresses, and her use of metallic and crushed velvet fabrics that reflected light beautifully down the runway.

In addition to the New York show, ARISE magazine will present during Paris Fashion Week on March 5 and host a Fashion Rocks! event in Johannesburg on July 9.

Source: blackvoices.com

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