The economic fabric of Africa is seeing a gradual but sure change as young and upcoming entrepreneurs are taking advantage of non-traditional methods to showcase the treasures and talents within the continent. Fashion, which until recent times was considered as a hobby for most, is now climbing to the pinnacle of revenue generation for many talented African designers and artists. The essence of Africa is marvelously being captured by the handiwork and trade of many of these talented designers. The strong culture, untold stories and rich heritage is evident in the cuts, designs, themes, fabrics and colors that make up these fashion masterpieces. Behind each and every piece, lies an untold story…
Come hear the fashion giants roar during the fashion panel at the 8th Annual African Economic Forum at Columbia University in New York city. They are redefining the face of global fashion and giving Africa its own identity in the international market – they are the fashion trendsetters panelists. Tune in every Wednesday and Friday leading up to the conference date (March 25 -26, 2011) to the Hot Off the Runway section as we showcase each panelist and how they are using fashion to rewrite Africa’s history. Starting today, Friday March 4, 2011, be sure to check in as we shine the spotlight on Ms. Elaine Mensah (founder of SVELTE LLC) and honorable panel moderator. However, if you will be joining us at the 8th Annual African Economic Forum, do make it a point to meet all the panelists in person:
Fashion Trendsetters Panel for the African Economic Forum, 2011
Elaine Mensah – SVELTE LLC (Moderator)
Elaine Mensah is the founder of SVELTE, LLC, a creative consulting and communications firm specializing in fashion and lifestyle branding. As creator & host of Fashion BS & SVELTE Tv, Ms Mensah has interviewed some of the biggest names in fashion including Jason Wu, Lela Rose, Fern Mallis, and Nigel Barker. From 2007-2010, Ms Mensah served as Fashion Director for Fashion Fights Poverty which was named #1 Fashion & Beauty Event by Biz Bash Magazine under her tenure. Elaine Mensah has appeared in Washington Post’s Fashion Washington, Washington City Paper, Washington Times, Capitol File, and Washington Life Magazine as one of its “most influential DC residents under 40.” Elaine has also appeared as fashion expert on WUSA9, WJLA affiliate program “Let’s Talk Live,” WPGC 95.5FM, and DC area program “As We See It.” She has Bachelor’s in Law and Society from American University and Masters in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University.
Edward Armah – EDWARD ARMAH LLC
Edward Armah took his first humble steps into the world of fashion about ten years ago in his homeland, Ghana. Through managing a local radio station’s fashion segment, Armah developed an intense passion for the fashion industry.In 1998, Armah travelled to London. He concentrated on fashion design, while he worked in a custom shop. But soon, he realized that London could not quench his escalating thirst for fashion. By 2000, Armah had made his way to the United States of America, where his appointment was as a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus, New Jersey. By the time he left the high-end retail store in 2006, he had become a seasoned professional in the customized clothing industry. From Neiman Marcus, Edward Armah moved on to Saks Fifth Avenue, another prestigious luxury retailer in the United States. Later, he worked for Oxxford, where he spent time with experienced tailors in Chicago. Inspired by his eclectic mix of experiences Edward Armah was ready to embrace his own luxury men’s furnishing business – Edward Armah LLC.
Ruby Buah – KUA DESIGNS
In 2009, Ruby Buah took a bold step by leaving behind spread sheets and financial statements for metals and fabrics. Ruby went from Finance to Fashion! It all started a few years back when she worked as a Financial Analyst at Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. Ruby, seeking a creative outlet started exploring different forms of art in her spare time. What started as a hobby in jewelry-making quickly became a profitable business. Fast forward 3 years later, she is in New York wrapping up a degree in Jewelry Design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology and parlaying her experience in finance into running her business. To no surprise, she has built on her jewelry line by adding an equally exciting handbag line. Bringing it all full circle, her cosmopolitan chic jewelry line is reminiscent of her experiences in different parts of the world while her handbag line pays homage to her home country, Ghana. From the humble beginnings of a kitchen table, Ruby is honored to share © Kua Designs.
Kibonen Nfi – KIRETTE COUTURE
Kibonen Nfi, promising fashion designer hailing from Cameroon, is co-founder of KiRette Couture, which is considered to be a fashion revolution. With her partner Anrette Ngafor, Kibonen is using KiRette Couture to bring Cameroon and Africa to the fore front of the fashion industry. Hatched in the New York chic bubble, KiRette Couture is mainly inspired by the “toghu” (also known as the Bamenda gown) – a colourful and intricately embroidered fabric typically worn, on special occasions, by the people of the North West and Western provinces in Cameroon . Although the “toghu” cloth is KiRette Couture’s signature fabric, designs are not limited to it. In true edgy and funky style, this one-of-a kind label aims to create a new fashion language which transcends racial and cultural borders by exploring, experimenting with and fusing various textiles. Our sourcing and manufacturing arrangements span across Africa, representing different African styles and cultures. In addition to her creative contribution to KiRette Couture, Kibonen continues to expand her portfolio as a fashion and social entrepreneur through her involvement in numerous ongoing projects including founder of Cameroon Fashion Industry Common Intiative Group, promoter of Cameroon’s Next Super model and board member Africa’s Next Super Model.
Jacqueline Nwobu – MUNALUCHI BRIDAL MAGAZINE
Jacqueline Nwobu is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, the leading authority of bridal inspiration for women of color. Multicultural women are major contributors to the $160-billion wedding industry,however, their presence is visibly absent in most bridal publications. Munaluchi Bridal fills this void and provides the truest example that love comes in more than one shade. Nwobu launched the first issue of Munaluchi Bridal in January 2010. Sincethen, the magazine has been distributed in all 50 states and internationally in Canada, Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom. Ms. Nwobu has been featured in various media outlets discussing topics such as the many differences in cultural wedding traditions, interracial marriage, bridal fashion and Munaluchi Bridal’s “Pearls of Africa” feature which highlights the importance of raising Africa’s profile as a premier travel destination. Interview credits include WPIX NY, ABC, and NBC. Prior to becoming Munaluchi Bridal Editor-in-Chief, Nwobu worked within the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries at companies including Johnson and Johnson. Nwobu is a member of the National Association of Black Female Entrepreneurs and the American Society of Magazine Editors. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.
Naana Tennachie Yankey – COCCOLILLY
Designer Naana Tennachie Yankey was born in Ghana. Her formative years were spent in the United Kingdom where she attended boarding school and later ventured off to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. While living in the US, Naana made a dramatic switch from business to fashion, to cultivate her creative spirit. Her longing to be part of the fashion world came to fruition when she apprenticed with Marc Jacobs in New York. Naana later moved to Montreal to study Fashion Design at Academy of Arts and Design in Montreal, Quebec and then worked under Eve Gravel, before starting to sow the seeds of her own line, Coccolily. Through her diverse travels and colorful heritage, Naana`s approach to fashion is sensual, edgy and bold. Coccolily is infused by European flare, since Naana loves to work with original haute-couture fabrics from mainly Italian mills. Naana believes that a woman deserves to be draped in luxury; to have her body enhanced with special clothes. Coccolily is a daring yet playful line of couture lounge and eveningwear that brings out the edge and sexuality in every woman.