Winnipeg’s large and diverse African diaspora community includes fashion designers, makeup artists and models, such as designer Ali Opemipo for Aplus African Fashion.
“Over the years (Aplus African Fashion) has been growing,” Opemipo says. “The summer is the high business demand time, but every year it grows really well, and we’ve been able to get more return customers over the years.”
Opemipo says the business started three years ago, and that she is the designer and marketer for the shop, while her mother is the seamstress.
“This is what I love doing, I love designing, and my mom loves sewing. She went to sewing school back in Nigeria and has her own business on the net, and when she came here, she decided to continue, and that’s how we came together,” she says.
Summer is the busiest season for Opemipo, when she has shows for new designs and participates in Folklorama, which is a big event for the designer/seamstress duo.
While she says fashion is important everywhere, she says she’s seen her business have a really positive effect on Africans in Winnipeg, and that she’s seen many Canadians interested in the styles and sewing their own versions of patterns, which she says has “a positive influence on the fashion life.”
“It’s different from wearing just a normal designer dress,” she says. “So I would say African fashion brings a little bit of spice into the society, which is really admired from people all over the world.
“Winnipeg has been privileged, and I think they are enjoying the fact that they can see different designs from different brands apart from what is more everyday.” She says.
While local designers host their own shows and may participate in markets or events like Folklorama, the upcoming African Fashion Week provides an opportunity for members of the local African fashion community to come together.
During African Fashion Week, “international and local designers (of) African descendant designs or cultures (fashion designs, art and collections) are shown to a broader audience, to buyers, press and the general public,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
“Our platform aims to empower, educate and connect trilling brands and individuals interested in decimating barriers and creating structures around industries for business,” it says.
The event’s promotional materials have primarily featured designs by Francophone Edmonton-based designer Tounkara.
African Fashion Weeks have become major events in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.
While the biannual event typically takes place during February and September, according to the African Fashion Week website, it has been rescheduled to start on March 16th, rather than February 16th.
The event organizer was too busy with Toronto Fashion Week to provide comment.
Published in Volume 73, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 14, 2019)