First Black Fashion Week held in Paris

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On Friday, Black Fashion Week debuted in Paris on the heels of the official Fashion Week of the City of Light. Black Fashion Week, the brain child of designer Adama Ndiaye, was created to bring exposure to designers inspired by African themes, and to black models who often find it difficult to find mainstream work. She sees the promotion of black fashion as necessary to unite those interested in what she sees as an all-inclusive cultural revolution.

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“This is not a fashion show by black people, for black people,” Ndiaye told France24. “It’s part of a movement, like ‘black music‘ and ‘black art,’ and it is inclusive of all the people that are drawn to it.”

Detractors believe Black Fashion Week is a divisive enterprise that segregates blacks in fashion in a manner that makes race relations worse by excluding whites. “‘Why not a White Fashion Week?’ some have asked. But Paris Fashion Week is already white!” Ndiaye said in response. “We wanted to simply promote beyond African borders designers who are well-known in Africa or in their country but who don’t have access to the global market.”

Plus, Black Fashion Week showed that ‘blackness’ is an aesthetic avenue that can be universally travelled by featuring designers and models of every ethnic background. European, Haitian, Tunisian and other designers were featured, including white designer Katherine Pradeau. She connected with the mission of Black Fashion Week purely based on her love of African culture.

Ndiaye started Black Fashion Week in response to the low 10 percent rate of black representation in the industry. Yet, Pradeau, a Paris fashion veteran, became disenchanted with mainstream fashion simply because it failed to move her.

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For this reason, African cultures as a source of creativity deserves to be celebrated. “It’s less a question of identity or skin colour. It’s an opportunity to share cultures, a space where each designer can share their own experience,” Pradeau told the press.

Accusations of racial divisiveness will not stop the Senegalese-born Ndiaye from taking Black Fashion Week on an international tour to spread her message.

“Ndiaye, who held a Black Fashion Week in Prague last year… will take the show to Montreal in November and Brazil’s Salvador de Bahia next March,” reports The New Zeland Herald. The French designer of the Adama Paris label already has a ten year track record showcasing fashion in Senegal and introducing Western designers to the African continent.

“We’re trying to break into a tightly closed world of strict codes,” Ndiaye said of making changes in fashion’s exclusive community.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.