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Africa through fashion with Calabar: Return to the Empire

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By Cristina Diaz
Staff Writer
artsent.asp@gmail.com

African Student Association’s
annual fashion show was one
not to miss. Calabar: Return to
the Empire was a cultural and
artistic phenomenon Saturday
night at the former Key Bank in
downtown Albany.
The building was designed
in 1901, honed the “temple of
finance,” and used as that until
2010. Now it is a center for
weddings receptions, fundraisers
and galas. The prestigious
historic building was at
maximum capacity, hosting 300
people. Some even had to stand
throughout the two and a half
hour performance.
The rhythm of pounding
drums filled the air. Women
in traditional clothing greeted
guests and blended their bodies
to the beat. The runway was
right in the front of the entrance,
rows of white chairs at its sides.
If you were feeling a little
fabulous, you could get
your picture taken by the
photographers with the ASA
banner as background. To the
right of the main door, was DJ
Sixfiggaz, who was spinning
music all night. The mood of
the fashion show was fun and
sophisticated, but it quickly
proved that it was no ordinary
college event.
UMOJA, ASA’s dance group,
began the show with their
amazing dancing. The 12 female
dancers were spread along the
aisles dancing like no one was
watching, as spectators cheered
from their seats.
After the dancers set the tone,
the definition of Calabar was
expressed through an interesting
skit, offering some historical
background. The event was
hosted by Nne and Ike from
Youtube’s “The Nne nd IKE
Show.” From Azonto and wining
dancing competitions to “Who
can represent their African
country the best” contests, they
had crowd laughing and dancing
throughout the night.
Six collections and 24
models made their way down
the runway. The clothing lines
included everything from swim
suits pieces to long sophisticated
dresses. Jesuis NYC’s designer
Senami Atinkpahoun found a
balance between her roots and
modern influence in her clothing,
stating her motivation in creating
her pieces came from the basis
that “she didn’t want to lose her
culture.”
B. Chris Couture by Baba
Christian created in February
2009, offered a very tribal look
cut in modern time pieces. Her
creations were very colorful, but
did not expose too much of the
body.
One of the most interesting
collections was perhaps the
Mario and Lee collection by
two brothers from Brooklyn.
Before the models came out, St.
Rose junior, Lionel Nichols, cofounder
and designer, whispered,
“Quote me on this, I’m about to
bring heat.”
The “create your own styles”
collection proved to hold nothing
back, blending completely
opposite textures and patterns
together. Female crop tops, male
leather crotch pants, bowties,
blazers with floral sleeves and
even a bookbag represented
the duos creative minds. All
the collections themselves
represented the beauty of the
African culture through the art
of fashion. The models came in
all shapes and sizes, strutted the
catwalk with determination and
fierce attitude. ASA’s executive
board all wore a yellow
matching ankaras – a traditional
African fashion – set in their own
outfit preference.
ASA president Chiagbanwe
Enwere looked relieved as she
mingled with guests. With 5
months of preparation, she rated
the show a 10. “It went better
than I expected,” she smiled,”
The venue definitely helped.”
The annual fashion show is
usually held on campus, but
this year the group did not
want to be restricted by budget
or location to give it a more
fashion show feel. With the help
of The Office of Intercultural
Student Engagement and Student
Association, the event cost about
$6,000. Proceeds of the night
will be donated to the African
Women for Change (Sininyma.)
UMOJA dancer Stephanie
Ngozio Ukpere joined Enwere in
her satisfaction with the show,
“This is was a perfect upgrade.
Because nothing ever goes
perfect, I would give it a nine out
of 10.”
And about the amazing
dancing?
“We created the dance about
2 weeks before the show
and practiced everyday,” she
explains. Hands on their hips,
back leans almost touching the
floor, lifting shirts exposing
defined six-packs, these models
put in work.
“It was a tough 2 months,” said
model Iyanni Callender.
There was no food restriction,
but practices consisted of upper
body and leg workouts three
times a week, then everyday as
the show neared.
“It was a lot of work,” said the
University at Albany freshman.
“But I would do it again.”
The fashion show was
followed by an after party where
models, designers and spectators
were able to mingle. Phones
in hand, women and men alike
asked for websites, emails and
telephone numbers to place
orders for the fabulous fashions
on display.

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