AFI continues to cultivate future generations of African designers

November 5, 2021

Creating solutions to Africa’s socio-economic challenges through design changed the perception of this continent beyond textiles and craft. Having successful investment partnerships into its’ design industry helped scale the distribution and production of African fashion brands to meet global demand, which in turn positively impacts the growth of Africa’s economy.

In conjunction with delivering haute couture garments from your favourite pan-African fashion houses, the African Fashion International (AFI) hosted its’ annual fashion week. The three-day event launched on 28 October 2021 and was held on the rooftop of The Leonardo in Sandton. It saw the AFI’s masterclass and annual design platform ‘Fastrack’ along with the return of AFI’s longstanding campaign, Design for Life. The campaign draws influence from the fashion industry to garner support for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to promote awareness and encourage women to seek out early detection services.

Building on the previous campaign titled I AM AFRICA, ‘Be You! Truly African.’ was the theme of this years’ masterclass. Here, a panel of renowned speakers discussed the topic of what role the creative sector plays? Hoping for insight, we posed a question to the panel regarding the monotonous diversification of African designs.

On the panel, rapper and fashion entrepreneur Ricky Rick commented that Africa should establish self-sufficiency. He went on further to elaborate how African style transcends beyond fashion but onto diverse nuances that represent Africa’s aesthetic. He says we need to look away from European fashion because it is international markets that take influence from Africa. 

AFI Fashion Week Joburg 2021

This year’s Fashion Week also saw a mixture of seventeen new and established designers exhibit collections to over 2,500 global viewers. These included: 

  • AFI’s Fastrack 2021 cohort
  • K. Moraba & Collective
  • Imprint
  • House of Fabrsanz
  • Seditsi Collection
  • Several brands under the Senegal Collective
  • Love Jane
  • Urban Zulu 
  • Amen
Love Jane

The show was a hybrid showcase for in-person and virtual guests. 

In attendance were Motsepe Foundation Trustees. Celebrities included newly crowned Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane as well as Thebe Magagu – an alumnus of AFI’s Fastrack. It was the one which in fact launched his international career in fashion and become the winner of the prestigious LVMH prize in 2019.

The gap between Fashion Weeks from March 2020 and October 2021 was told through a thoughtful interpretation of visionary African femininity. It included unique takes on hot pink fabrics, menswear skirts and wispy silhouettes. The playlist gestured this cultural swing, with designers moving away from the fast-paced beats of hip-hop toward the classics by Boom Shaka and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Yvonne Chaka Chaka herself co-starred on the runway for Lufi D, with reality TV star Nonkanyiso Conco, in a plus-size celebration of African forms, colours and prints.

Commencing the show was K. Moraba & Collective, with their range of luxury garments focusing on waist cinched A-line pieces. Bespoke floor-length satin gowns with oversized sleeves and long flowing palazzo pants styled with a structured blazer. They were in themes of yellow, blue and sparkly rainbow sequins. The sharp-angled silhouettes were feminised with trimmings of soft ostrich feathers and bold gold lace. 

Afro-futuristic brand Lufi D, known for its’ ability to combine unlikely colours and a variety of textures unveiled its’ summer collection. Their designs experimented with cutout shapes and sarong style swimwear to construct modern outfits. 

Fashion Week closer David Tlale was fresh from the Dubai Expo and showcased a ready-to-wear collection that left the audience wanting more. Unfortunately, House of Stevolution did not showcase but the show schedule proceeded with AFI’s Fastrack.

Cultivating the future generation of African designers, Fastrack invests in fashion design graduates who are building brands that offer distinguished African avant-garde creations. The platform selects 6 – 12 finalists to showcase their collections at AFI’s lifestyle experiences, it also introduces them to the business ethos of fashion through a range of development opportunities presented through its’ affiliation with AFI’s various marketing and event platforms. 


AFI Fastrack finalists

This years’ Fastrack saw finalists Charon Dreyer, Shamyara Moodley, Siyabonga Mtshali and Keneoue Mhletswa competing for the coveted prize. The winner of the AFI Fastrack award will have access to Fashion Week runways in South Africa and receive a generous cash prize to start their business. Noted Fastrack alumni include RICH MNISI (2014) and recent recipient SINDI MBOBO (2019). They have both established their successful labels in the local design world after being given the AFI Fastrack platform.

A career in fashion eclipses becoming a household name. It’s about being savvy – identifying your talent and how to use it to make your brand commercial. Through year-long internships and mentorships, as well as funding for their creation of capsule collections for AFI’s Fashion Week, these emerging designers are shaped to independently generate financially impactful returns and the skills gained will help extend their capabilities and offerings.

Following the process of adjudication and mentorship, the winner is also awarded the title of ‘Young Designer of the Year’ and to further leverage the AFI’s sales platforms, the winning designer’s collection will be made available from, House of Nala, the AFI’s e-commerce and physical boutique store at the Leonardo.

AFI remains committed to growing a new multitude of designers through their Fastrack platform and ensures that the international community responds positively and commercially to African-designed products. In this competitive industry, having aid platforms such as Fastrack, which serve to encourage the country’s most promising fashion designers to succeed, including offering financial support; the task of having to promote exhibitions becomes easier and the range of offerings becomes more expansive to the global trans-African market. 

“We are dedicating this fashion week to healing. In the strange, challenging time we continue to find ourselves in, imagination and creativity are so important. It helps us cope with what confronts us,” explained Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, the founder and chief executive of AFI. By dedicating this Spring/Summer season to healing, AFI aimed to promote the creativity of pan-African designers as the beginning of progress for Africa as a whole.

Every ensemble showcased at this year’s Fashion Week encapsulates African traditions and heritage. There’s tremendous momentum for African brands asserting their own identity, catapulting our unique cultures and introducing the continent to the world as they’ve never seen before. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the year ahead!

AFI Fashion Week Joburg 2021 was streamed live with sponsorship from:

  • House of Nala
  • Plat Africa
  • Royal Flush Gin
  • BET

To re-watch the runway go to https://www.afi-events.online

Shop the collections for a limited time only on Houseofnala.africa/.

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