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Elegance 'arises' out of Africa for spring/summer '12 at Avery Fisher Hall

RENEE MINUS WHITE Fashion & Beauty Editor | 9/21/2011, 5:59 p.m.
Elegance 'arises' out of Africa for spring/summer '12 at Avery Fisher Hall

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Elegance 'arises' out of Africa for spring/summer '12 at Avery Fisher Hall

What a fashion variety show at Avery Fisher Hall! "Arise Magazine: Made in Africa" was one of the amazing closing presentations at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week last Thursday evening at Lincoln Center. The crowd was overwhelming but well-managed-an early will-call email to pick up tickets helped. Arise featured seven magnificent designers, all from different areas of Africa, and each design house displayed a totally different look. Worn by gorgeous live runway models who were also displayed on a big screen, the clothes were absolutely stunning.

Designers Malcom Kluk and Christian Gabriel du Toit from South Africa each have their own labels but collaborated for this fashion special. Professionally know as Kluk CGDT, the duo are passionate about creating women's wear that evokes passion. Their prints are bold. Colors are vibrant, as seen throughout all of the collections. For spring/summer 2012, these designers have set out to capture Africa's softer side. "We looked at the flora and fauna around us and translated them into ethereal garments using tulle, silk and West African lace," said the designers.

Tsemaye Binitie grew up in Nigeria and London. Inspired by his mother's Versace wardrobe, he began studying fashion design. After working with Stella McCartney, he launched his own label in 2009. His exquisite ensembles show his love for modern, sexy designs. Binitie's look is all about unabashed glamour, perfect cuts and complex hidden details. He shows body-conscious silhouettes that communicate a global elegance. Here, the theme was sportswear layered with surfer styles. Soft dresses are colorful, light and airy.

Fati Asibelua started her company "Momo" in 2000 as a fabric boutique. Her Nigerian upbringing gives her a global view that is reflected in the traditional prints and masterful combinations she uses. Asibelua's spring/summer 2012 collection is a contemporary African mix of vibrant prints, contrasting textures and futuristic streamline shapes.

Fresh from an apprenticeship at Balenciaga, French-Ivorian designer Pierre-Antoine Vettorello launched his label just this year. He's a winner of the Innovative Award from Arise magazine this year. Vettorello is constantly pushing boundaries. In his line, he experiments with wood, plastic and metal to create sculpture pieces that allow the wearer to be a part of his story. Known for his craftsmanship, his designs transform his creative vision into fashionable art.

Nigerian designer Lisa Folawiyo, of the Jewel by Lisa line, opened with long Ankara skirts. Her collection offers bright, colorful prints and patterns. There are retro cuts and textures that create clothes with colorful prints. She transforms wax-printed cotton into luxury fabric in a revolutionary technique for which she is highly regarded.

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, also from Nigeria, founded her company in 2005. Inspired by the 16th century villas, antique markets, hills and beaches of Lucca, Italy, the LDA spring/summer 2012 collection showcases ladylike shapes. There's lots of traditional tailoring techniques, pleating and draping. "Fabrics include jacquard, satin, Chantilly lace, silk and organza-and I'm using bright colors throughout," said Ajayi.

Founded in London in 2009, Bunmi Koko combines the talents of Bunmi Otale and Francis Udom. The collection is an interesting combination of her Nigerian and his Scottish heritages. Their clothes are geared for today's strong working woman. Signature touches include the draped architectural shoulder and daredevil prints. Their theme is "Allure of Sirens," with pairings of textures and textiles such as leather, raw ropes and tassels.

According to the design duo, "Silhouettes are either strong and belted at the waist like naval uniforms or draped delicately and fluid."

Good Show!