Meeting Nicola Paparusso - politologist, writer, producer and general secretary of African Fashion Gate (AFG) - is itself an experience of taste and creativity "100% made in Italy", coupled with the vibrant exuberance of the African continent.
Nicola believes in the economics of abundance and in the multiplier effect of creativity, when it is mission driven and purpose oriented. Motivated by his innate optimism and passion for seeking talent, together with AFG - the NGO created with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication for Senegal - he is working hard to change the western perception of the African fabrics, textiles and Fashion, prepare African designers to work with western peers and retailers, and create sustainable trade agreements benefiting all parties involved .
Quite a challenging mission, that is producing fast results, because if it's true that "Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening" (Coco Chanel), well the contribution of "the African touch" to the western Fashion system has already been huge in the last few years: think of the summer/spring 2012 collection of Louis Vuitton using the iconic red Shuka worn by the Maasai people from Kenya or the ‘Ghana must Go’ bags 2007 by M. Jacobs again for Louis Vuitton...
Above and beyond the big brands' collections - that sometimes have the power to set a new trend, some other times to acknowledge it - it is a matter of fact that in the last years the colorful swags, eye-catching mix of colors and animalier prints typical of the African clothing have become worthy pieces every woman needs in her wardrobe.
So far, many Italian and european stylists, designer and entrepreneurs have been producing in Africa, by developing collaborations with African entrepreneurs and drawing inspiration from the African colorful and mixed style. The results of these collaborations have been very interesting in term of economic impact on the territory and the african women entrepreneurial community.
One of the most notable representatives of this trend is Ilaria Venturini Fendi, who already in the 2011, in Seoul, was awarded the Grand Prize for ethical fashion design by the World Fashion Development program, to recognize her outstanding efforts in creating "Made in Africa" collections of accessories and pieces of furniture, by using locally sourced reclaimed materials and the support of local micro-producers.
Now, African Fashion Gate is ready to move forward and beyond: it's high time to harness the power of the fashion industry to disclose the talent of (semi)anonymous african designers and stylists to the western world and publicly value and recognize their amazing work.
Nicola and the staff of AFG, endorsed by a network of distinguished entrepreneurs, politicians, economists, artists and goodwill ambassadors, are pursuing this objective inspired by a new business model called "Economethica", which basically aims to create transparent, ethical and sustainable trade agreements between local and foreign entrepreneurs and use part of the profits to fund new start-ups, support the education system and create new employment opportunities.
Among the several activities and the most vibrant initiatives so far conducted by AFG, it is worth to mention:
- the new black models agency providing equal international opportunities to black models, the so called "black swans";
- the amazing parade of black and white swans wearing haute couture models created by stylists from Senegal, Tunisia, Congo and Cameroon such as Colle Ardu Sow, Anggy Haif, Fawzi Nawar and Pathé Dia, organized last year in the magnificent Halls of the Louvre in Paris, with the musical background of Mao Otayeck and Stevie Wonder, that will be repeated this year in collaboration with the students of Communication and Design of BAU International Academy of Rome;
- the "Worldwide Catwalks" Project, a series of amazing events that AFG has been organizing to promote African fashion and design, from Naples, to Rome, Milan. Paris and finally...Dakar, where - under the high patronage of the President of Senegal Aziz Mbaye and the famous lebanese entrepreneur Alex Kfoury Rabiah - the magic splendor of the Paris-Dakar rally will be revamped this coming september, by paving the senegalese desert with a plexiglass catwalk for the runway walks of the most important First Ladies of the world, who will crown the city of Dakar as leading capital of the "Black Fashion".
Education is a fundamental pillar of this project and the memorandum of understanding signed by the Director of BAU International Academy of Rome, Francesca de Palo, and the General Secretary of AFG, aims exactly to seek new talents and create a new class of African entrepreneurs, designers and creative people inspired by the masters of the Made in Italy brand.
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