Mille Collines celebrates all things Africa at AFI MBFW Joburg
We dedicate this show to Aamito Lagum and her beautiful lips
Mille Collines is a truly Afro-politan label with its roots stretching from Kigali in Rwanda to Cape Town in South Africa. Their 2016 autumn/winter show at AFI Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg on Friday (11 March) took place in an intimate venue to provide all guests with a front-row view and was their fourth in South Africa and the first since expanding their brand to South Africa a year ago.
Curio l city, their autumn/winter 2016 collection, is also their first show with Namnyak Odupoy, who joined Inés Cuatrecasas and Marc Oliver, the cofounders of Mille Collines, in March 2015 as designer. Odupoy comes with strong fashion-industry credentials that include successes as model and stylist for Couture Africa in Kenya.
Cuatrecasas calls Curio l city cosmopolitan, elegant and artisanal. “We took our inspiration from the curio shops found throughout Africa and their disconnect with today’s Africa. We understand the nostalgia associated with curios and reinterpreted them to reflect the cosmopolitan, globalised Africa African women live in today. We took the most obvious elements that non-Africans consider ‘African’ and expressed them in a contemporary way.”
The collection encompasses a professional woman’s day and the show started with Mille Collines’ trademark relaxed resortwear before moving on to suits – a first for the designers – and sophisticated 3D beaded cocktailwear. There are flowing printed tunics and kimonos, tailored jackets and dresses as well as cocktail dresses, all in Mille Collines’ natural palette of sand, stone and indigo enlivened with flashes of bottle green, mint, banana yellow and peach. Easy-wearing Italian matt silk crêpe and wool, for the suits and waistcoats, and natural cotton transformed with prints traditionally associated with curios, particularly the patterns of Kuba fabrics from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
All the accessories similarly put an elegant spin on the ubiquitous curios. The models wore faux elephant hair bracelets, belts and necklaces made from rubber, leather and copper thread; leather handbags with woven panels made from recycled T-shirt yarn by Philani, a women’s workshop in Khayelitsha and another in Nairobi, Kenya; 3D brooches and necklaces that echo African masks thaty have been hand-decorated with beading by a group of 25 Masai women; and beaded cuffs inspired by Masai motifs and given contemporary colours.
The laptop bags are by The WRen Design in Cape Town and made from recycled paper finished with a waterproof coating to which Mille Collines’ customised prints were added. Ballo, also from Cape Town, collaborated on the unisex, cow’s horn, leather and wood sunglasses finished with beaded straps that double as necklaces.
To underline Mille Collines drive to advance African fashion and the industry as a whole, the designers chose to book only black models for their show. “We are alarmed by the fact that top international models like Ajak Deng still have to fight for equal pay and want to show our support in whichever way we can,” says Cuatrecasas. “As Deng recently said on Instagram, ‘We are all beautiful and deserve to be respected. #BigLoveToHumanity.'”
Mille Collines sent a powerful group of models down the runway, a tribute to African women and their strength. The army of African beauties and African tribute brought tears to many in the audience, a moving dedication with Millen Magese from Tanzania, Julia Otobo, Janet Otobo, Adebisi Sowemimo and Victoria Daropale from Nigeria; Luisa Chagwala from Mozambique, Kate Tachie-Menson from Ghana, Patricia Lolayo from Uganda, Tanya Nzonzimbu from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lale-Marie Walter from Germany, Tshepiso Ralehlathe, Poppy Xaba, Anele Ntuli and Matlala Mokoko from South Africa; Phetogo Mogale from South Africa/Nigeria and London Knight from the United States of America.
The AFI MBFW Joburg 2016 show was produced by Deon Redman, who sent the models down the runway to the sound of the powerful voices of Nina Simone and younger talent JoJo Abot, and the footwear was sponsored by Superbalist who provided a city-chic range of stylish, versatile wedges and the latest sneakers in white, sand and off-gold.
Curio l city will be available in April from the Mille Collines online store, which offers free delivery throughout Africa, and at the Mille Collines boutiques in Nairobi.
“It has been incredibly exciting to work in collaboration with some amazing South African talents and we can’t wait to grow the collaborations. The next step is to grow our creative team in South Africa and investigate the possibility of opening a local store.”
“When you move to a new environment it forces you to go back to your roots so that the core of your designs does not get lost in the change. Today we can say that South Africa is giving us the opportunity to continue growing in a creative way, something that is very important as we are a young company with lots of scope to grow. We are excited to be doing it here in South Africa while continuing to be in East Africa.”
Facebook: mille collines
Photography credits: SDR Photo
Show Producer: Deon Redman
Set design: Krisjan Rossouw