On Saturday Night last weekend, a tribe of fashionistas and Wellingtonian enthusiasts trudged through the wind and rain to the inaugural Africa Fashion Festival. I was lucky enough to be among them. And while the feeling of Wellington that night was more sludgy and wet than that of African heat, the night was a smashing success of colour, energy, inclusion and surprises put on by Pinaman Owusu.
And what is a wonderful night without the people who make it happen? Pinaman has admitted she couldn’t have put the night on without an incredible team behind her including Yvette Edwards and Mr Edwards, the guys at Motif, Bart De Vries and James Bushnell who kept her on track. She also credits Anne Kemp for managing the VIPs on the day and Sarah Wong along with all the students from Massey University School of Creative Arts who volunteered for the event to ensure a smooth transition. The backbone for her event also included her Creative Director, Kieran Stowers.
On the other hand - A fashion festival is in need of guests! And so, I was kindly invited along to enjoy the celebrations. But not everything always goes to plan, even in fashion. Here is my slightly un-elegant review of how brilliant the event was, my attempts to stay dry in the pouring rain and an SD card disaster.
Also, before I start off, I am now on Snapchat so you can follow me by searching residents_welly - I would love love love it if you did!
GETTING READY - LOCATION: ARTY BEES BOOKSHOP
Coming straight from a food sorting shift at Kaibosh Food Rescue, this resident of Welly was not feeling particularly GLAMOUROUS. My method of choosing what to dress in for this fashion show sadly had, therefore, to be entirely practical.
I stuck to what Coco Chanel said and stayed with a little black dress from Ellery I already had. It would be less likely to show the flecks on vegetable on it/plum juice from sorting through huge boxes of food immediately beforehand. I also wore the biggest and warmest coat I owned to beat the weather.
There was a quick decision making session in which I had to be sensible and say goodbye to the dream of wearing my 4 inch heel Georgio Armarni heels from David Jones in Sydney that I got for my cousins wedding (I fell over twice on the dance floor that night- nuff said - suffering for beauty is hard and painful) in favour of some Beau Coop brogues [ALSO DAVID JONES OPENING SOON IN WELLINGTON *HAPPY FACE EMOJI*].
I took shelter at Arty Bees Bookshop to do my makeup and fluff my hair. Lipstick was applied. Book store staff didn't give me a second look as I must have been the hundredth person that day to hide for shelter from the rain in the shop. Then I put a big smile on my face. Hey-presto - The Residents was ready to strut with the best of them - it was off to the show!
PRE-SHOW - THE VIP EXPERIENCE (for me, very intensely perspiring)
The Africa Fashion Festival New Zealand, hosted at the James Smith Arcade, proved a magical evening indeed and it was well worth the hustle against the weather!!
On arriving, the entrance by the corner of Cuba Street and Manners Mall had been transformed into a holding bay for women teetering on heels and girls pouting with lips that would make Kylie Jenner jealous. Dashing men were bow tied in their finest attire. A trio of AFFNZ organisers were desperately trying to hold the throngs back, waiting until people could be admitted at 5:40-ish.
A photographer snapped fashion goers on the red carpet, giving me a chance to werk-it-out (and not trip on my large oversized coat and scarf or worry about how my arms looked). I soon made my way upstairs for the VIP pre-drinks. I arrived and was warmly greeted with glass of bubbles and moved into a huge room which had been cleared. It was filled with chairs forming a cat-walk through the middle. Beautiful lightbulbs left a warm glow and the people there hummed with excitement.
I quickly discovered I left my SD card at home for my fabulous new Canon Camera I recently acquired off the lovely Lucy Mutch, former owner of Crave Cooking and founder of Wellington foodies (shout out to you, Lucy!). So, in a very stylish manner, I ran back through the rain to Mum and Dads where I had been ‘borrowing’ their internet earlier that day (almost a month and STILL NO INTERNET!!). I suddenly was very very happy I had not decided to wear by high heels. Running through the rain would have been the end of me.
15 minutes later I was back in a sweat but with camera card. I may or may not have found my way to a second glass of bubbles to cool me down. At that point, I bumped into my old Yoga teacher, the gorgeous Tyronne. We chatted and I ended up getting roped into an interview (which I might pop up when it goes live - I am interested to see how sweaty my top lip was after all that running around Te Aro).
Moving back inside, I was greeted by an increased throng of people. Suddenly the crowd had swelled to a glittery mob. Looking around, I spotted a few familiar faces. Sara Quilter of Tailor was there (Tailor was a goody bag donor - holla!) and also a gaggle of Wellington’s fashionistas. I was grateful to meet Pinaman Owusu, the founders and organiser of the night. She knew who I was (amazing!!) and was super lovely.
But there was no time to waste to chit-chat. The show was about to start!
THE SHOW ITSELF - WELLINGTON AND AFRICA BRINGS ITS FASHION A-GAME
I sat down next to two glamorous minxes who had gone full hog on the fashion front. They were super lovely (despite the sassy faces here) and we talked social media and blogging.
As the show began, it was a flurry as everyone pulled out their phones and cameras to start snapping away. I couldn’t help but think how mad it is that now we look at this kind of thing through a camera lens - before realising that was huge honour to be able to do so and that we have all these amazing pictures and memories saved for as long as we want. One thing I thought was amazing was Pinaman insisted on using a mix of African and Caucasian models so flew them from all over New Zealand to come for the night! How cool is that?
The beautiful African labels showing at the AFFNZ were mostly new to me but I can certainly say I will be keeping a keen eye out for them from now on! I LOVED all of the clothes and was really inspired by what was on show. I felt that the clothes evoked almost the European style of Belgium label Dries Van Noten and Italian fashion house Marni. They were colourful, bold and cut to play with proportion and volume. The labels were 1981, AAKS, Bohten, Chido Dimairo, LaurenceAirline, MONAA, MO SAÏQUE shoes and Sokona. They are all incredible and really beautifully crafted. The models did an amazing job of showing them off and all the people around me were on their feet, whooping with excitement. You can read more about the labels and their history here.
Another wonderful thing about the night was the feeling of inclusion I got. I really didn’t know that many people there (and the people I had met were quite busy working backstage!). Nevertheless, I met some great people including Photographer Geoff Walker, Pinaman, Kalen Acquitso (Garage Project) and others. Everyone mixed and mingled as one. There was no hint of clique behaviour and everyone just seemed to want to rally in the fun of it all.
There was also some amazing music including this dope dude who rapped for us!!
At the end we took home our amazing goody bags with gifts from The Body Shop, Tailor, Karma Cola, Wellington Chocolate Factory and more.
THE SHOUT OUTS
Shout outs were made by Pinaman at the end of the night, particularly to her amazing team and her creative director, Keiran Stowers. There were so many people involved in this night and it would be amazing to see it happen again!
While I skipped the after party, the rest of the crowd headed to Mexico and then Ivy to carry on the party. As for me, I was excited for a cup of tea, hot water bottle and my cosy flannel pyjamas. After all, there is Fashion and then there is Wellington winter PJ survival (read: lazy me). Oh well, isn’t the heart of fashion always being unexpected? Viva la difference!