The annual Afrik! Fashion Show celebrated the fashion, cuisine and culture of Africa and the African diaspora at Duffield Hall on Saturday night.
Hosted by the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars, the fashion show featured designers from across the country who presented “modern and traditionally influenced designs” composed of “refreshing and bold African patterns,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
Reem Abdalla ’20, COAS events coordinator, saw the fashion show as an opportunity to “bridge the gap between different Pan-African community” by giving voice to designs that are underrepresented in the fashion world.
“We want to give these kind of designers who … incorporate African influences and African experiences into their design the platform to … present that to our community,” Abdalla said.
A fashion show specifically on African design “serves the dual purpose” of general entertainment and strengthening the African and African diaspora community at Cornell, according to Abdalla.
“It connects all these different African diaspora through fashion and through entertainment, and it gives our community something to bond over,” Abdalla said.
Chino Agulanna ’18, a model for the fashion show, expressed his worry about Western influence undermining the unique identity of traditional African fashion.
“The line [between Western fashion and African fashion] is blurred,” he said. “Traditional attire tends to stick to its roots, in terms of its color and its style. But the whole world is becoming Western.”
On the other hand, Chidera Aneke, one of the designers, said that the influence of Western fashion may actually help African fashion broaden its boundary.
“For the most part, the African clothes are bright. If you see it, you cannot think of anything but African diaspora,” she said. “But there definitely has been a Western influence on African design and African fashion, and a lot of designers … cater to not just the African audiences, but cater to every woman and every man.”
Yahya Abdul-Basser ’20, said that the show resonated with him in a different way from other fashion shows because it spoke to his African heritage.
“I went to CFC show as well. I’m just interested in fashion,” he said. “But I feel like this show specifically is connected to me in a different way. It’s more personal, I guess.”
Aneke said he hopes that the fashion show will allow Cornellians with African heritage to be prouder of their culture.
“Hopefully those that don’t feel empowered and those don’t have the courage to come out and say they are African will feel and know that there is a group of people that are just like them in the school,” she said.