Mille Collines celebrates all things Africa at AFI MBFW Joburg

Mille Collines is a truly Afro-politan label with its roots stretching from Kigaliin Rwandato Cape Townin South Africa.

Their 2016 autumn/winter show atAFIMercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg on Friday (11 March) took place in an intimate venue to provideall guests with a front-row view and was their fourthin South Africa and the first since expanding their brand to SouthAfrica a year ago.

Curio lcity, 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 includesuccesses as model and stylist for Couture Africain  Kenya.

Cuatrecasas callsCurio l citycosmopolitan, elegant and artisanal. “We took ourinspiration fromthe curio shops found throughout Africaand 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 dayand the show startedwithMille Collines’trademark relaxed resortwear before moving on to suits –a first for the designers –andsophisticated 3D beaded cocktailwear.

There are flowingprinted tunics and kimonos, tailored jackets and dresses as well ascocktail 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 theubiquitous 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 byPhilani, a women’s workshop in Khayelitsha and anotherin Nairobi,Kenya; 3D brooches and necklaces that echo African masks thatyhave beenhand-decorated with beading by a group of25Masai women; and beaded cuffs inspired by Masai motifs and given contemporary colours.

The laptop bags are by The WRen Designin Cape Townand made fromrecycled paper finished witha waterproof coatingto which Mille Collines’ customised prints were added.Ballo, also from Cape Town,collaborated on the unisex, cow’s horn,leatherand wood sunglassesfinished with beaded straps that double asnecklaces.To underline Mille Collines drive to advance African fashion and the industry as a whole, the designers chose to bookonly black models for theirshow.

“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 deserveto be respected. #BigLoveToHumanity.’

“Mille Collines sent a powerful group of models down the runway, atribute to African womenandtheir strength. Thearmyof African beautiesand African tribute brought tears to many in theaudience, a moving dedication withMillen Magesefrom Tanzania, Julia Otobo, Janet Otobo,Adebisi Sowemimo and Victoria Daropale from Nigeria;Luisa Chagwala from Mozambique, Kate Tachie-Menson from Ghana, Patricia Lolayofrom Uganda, Tanya Nzonzimbu from the Democratic Republicof Congo, Lale-MarieWalterfrom Germany, Tshepiso Ralehlathe, Poppy Xaba,Anele Ntuliand Matlala Mokoko from South Africa;Phetogo Mogale from South Africa/Nigeria and London Knight from the United States of America.

The AFI MBFW Joburg2016 show was produced by Deon Redman, who sent the models down the runway to the sound of the powerful voices of Nina Simone andyounger 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, sandand off-gold.

Curio lcity will be available in April from the Mille Collines online store, which offersfree delivery throughout Africa, and at the Mille Collines boutiques in Nairobi.

“It has been incredibly exciting to work in collaboration with some amazing South Africantalents and we can’t wait to grow thecollaborations. The next stepis 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.”

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