from the runway

‘Afroblend Unleashed’ fashion show showcases beauty of African prints

Connor Bahng | Staff Photographer

One of Friday night's biggest accomplishments was the beautiful merging of traditional African prints with modern silhouettes.

African influence in the mainstream is undeniable, from Kente cloth to Ankara print. Music artists including Beyonce, Rihanna and Solange have been spotted in the designs. African prints traditionally include very bright, vibrant patterns that are exclusive to a certain tribe — Kente cloth is from the Ashanti in Ghana, and is traditionally used for celebrations such as weddings or naming ceremonies.

But with ideas and influences expanding out of their cultural roots, the once-exclusive prints have found new audiences.

At the African Student Union’s annual fashion showcase in Goldstein Auditorium Friday, with the theme “Afroblend Unleashed,” the designs embodied the traditional usage as well as modern takes. The show exhibited a mix of fall and summer clothing with trench coats, pants, wrap skirts, and two-piece sets and backpacks with traditional prints. Each individual piece blended tradition with modernity, which created a beautiful collection.

It was a showcase of versatility because so often we become trapped in the mindset that traditional African clothing must look a certain way, but this show dispelled that myth by creating everyday looks.

While backstage in the midst of the chaos of the show, I had the opportunity to speak with two of the designers, Imani Kutti and Jason Adu.

Imani Kutti – “Ivory Kutts”

Imani Kutti is a 20-year-old fashion designer from Chicago. She is Ivorian and Nigerian, and credits her roots for influencing her designs.

The Daily Orange: Where did the inspiration for your line come from?

Imani Kutti: The inspiration for my line came from my family, my background, my culture. Also, the people I’m surrounded by, so really my family. Everyone in my family is pretty fashionable. My dad was a designer, and my mom makes her own clothes or has them made.

The D.O.: How did you get into styling with African prints?

I.K.: My family is Ivorian and Nigerian, and that really influenced me.

The D.O.: Where did the inspiration for the fashion show come from? Or did you already have the clothes made?

I.K.: Well, I made those clothes specifically for the show, and I already had some made. I was going for a casual, but cute look. I wasn’t really too dramatic with the looks. They were more chic everyday wear.

The D.O.: How do you think African prints and clothing have influenced pop culture?

I.K.: For me, I think it’s always influenced it here and there, but I think people are just now starting to feed into it because I think it’s coming along with the whole movement with everybody becoming more conscious of their background. I feel like it’s something people can relate to, like black people can really relate to. Even though you’re not “African,” it’s your background, it’s your history.

Jason Adu – “Ataria NYC”

Born and raised in Ghana, Jason Ofori is the Vice President of Ataria NYC, an African and European brand of clothing. His responsibilities include covering a majority of the shows, managing their products and overseeing all of the men’s clothing designs.

The D.O.: Where did the inspiration for the name of your line come from?

Jason AduThe name of our line is where I’m from — I’m from Ghana. What we call clothing in Ghana is ‘at-aria’. That came from that, being that I was born and raised in New York. Me and my partner, we got the name from just everything that’s around us.

The D.O.: The name of the show is “Afroblend Unleashed.” Did you keep that in mind when you were designing or did you already have a set idea of what it was going to look like?

J.A.: It came about, like, it’s like a European and African blend, so it could be more diverse to Caucasian people, any different race, Chinese, any kind of race because it has that same Zara slick feel, and it has the African print. That’s where we really got it from. I’m more of a European style person, but we added an African feel to it.

The D.O.: How do you think African print and clothing has influenced pop culture?

J.A.: (African clothing) is definitely growing. Our main goal is to open up a flagship store one day for people to buy on the regular, to wear everyday. I think it has grown more. I’ve seen more African print clothing.

The D.O.: Do you think that’s a good thing, or has it become more commercialized?

J.A.: Yeah, it is kind of getting too commercialized. But, I mean everybody has a different style to their African … I don’t like the basic things people do with regular prints. I like if you were mixing it up like the way we do it. It’s OK, I mean it’s how the world works right?

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