Four African Designed Labels Feature Asylum Seekers at Pitti Uomo

AKJP Finale Generation Africa © Giovanni Giannoni AKJP Look 10 Generation Africa © Giovanni Giannoni U.Mi-1 Finale Generation Africa © Giovanni Giannoni Ikiré Jones Look 12 Generation Africa © Giovanni Giannoni Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts Finale Generation Africa © Giovanni Giannoni

By Staff | Men
Posted Jan 17, 2016

Fashion, as a lens on our changing world, made the news this week as three asylum seekers walked the runway for Pitti Uomo’s Generation Africa show. The show, featuring the Autumn/Winter 2016-17 men’s collections of designers AKJP, Ikiré Jones, Lukhanyo Mdinigi x Nicholas Coutts and U.Mi-1, is a platform to promote young and talented fashion designers from the Africa.

A statement from Lapo Cianchi, head of Special Projects at Pitti Immagine, who partners with the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) for the show, says

Generation Africa is the chance to open a new window on one of today‘s most creative scenes – and to give emerging fashion designers the opportunity to have a spotlight, both in terms of communication and real business opportunities. The collaboration with ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative combines these goals with a sensitivity to great social issues, and helps provide answers

With over 140,000 migrants arriving in Italy in 2015, the show was also a chance to lead by example with some ideas on how to deal with the current situation. Speaking on the models in an interview with AFP Simone Cipriani, Head and Founder of the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, says

As we are in Italy and have a huge refugee crisis we also want to show that migrants are a resource. We are setting up a training centre for refugees and migrants in Italy to work in the industry of fashion and be enabled to go back home and set up their own businesses there.

The project is being launched with Lai-momo, which welcomes asylum-seekers in Italy and promotes cross-cultural exchanges between Africa and Europe with the aim of reducing stereotypes and preconceptions.

Striving to improve diversity in the fashion industry, the EFI aims to demonstrate fashion’s capacity to support the betterment of society by connecting artisans to the global fashion supply chain since 2009. EFI also works with the rising generation of fashion talent from Africa, encouraging the development of creative collaborations with artisans on the continent. Under its slogan, “NOT CHARITY, JUST WORK.” the EFI has worked with designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Osklen and Stella Jean  and advocates a fairer global fashion industry.


Designers showcased in Generation Africa:
AKJP // Keith Henning & Jody Paulsen, South Africa
AKJP (Adriaan Kuiters + Jody Paulsen) is a menswear and womenswear brand founded by South African designer duo, Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen. AKJP‘s signature is its artful contemporary twist on classic and utilitarian menswear. AKJP has been recognised as one of South Africa’s most innovative brands, bringing contemporary and cool to the South African fashion landscape.
IKIRÉ JONES // Walé Oyéjidé, USA & Nigeria
Ikiré Jones (pronounced “E-kee-rae Jones”) is a menswear company that marries African aesthetics with classic art from all over the world. Each of the brand’s pieces tells a contemporary story by using historical artwork as a medium for modern expression. The brand’s tailoring is done in the United States, and its accessories are printed and hand-rolled in Macclesfield, United Kingdom.
LUKHANYO MDINGI x NICHOLAS COUTTS // Lukhanyo Mdingi & Nicholas Coutts, South Africa
South African designers Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts collaborate on this Autumn/Winter 2016-17 collection to illuminate each other’s aesthetics. The design partnership combines Mdingi’s minimalist approach with Coutts’ distinctive signature weaving style. Together, the designers create a menswear collection that embodies strength, empowerment and contemporary sophistication.  Influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, Coutts specialises in using handwoven fabrics and hand knitted items.
U.Mi-1 // Gozi Ochonogor, Nigeria & UK
U.Mi-1 (pronounced is a contemporary brand for the modern cool man. It tells a different side of the African fashion story with collections inspired by Nigerian culture, architecture and art. Headed by Nigerian designer Gozi Ochonogor who calls London, Tokyo and Lagos her homes, U.Mi- 1 collections are a blend of British tailoring aesthetic with the hallmark of Japanese artisanship and African spirit, delivering innovative designs and quality.

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