African designers make fashion debut in New York

Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:49pm EST
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - African designers showing collections for the first time in New York see the election of Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, as an opening to the huge American market.

African textiles and beadwork have served as inspiration for major designers for decades, but African designers have not yet found a firm footing in the U.S. fashion market.

Four African labels -- Xuly Bet by Malian designer Lamine Badian Kouyate, Tiffany Amber by Nigeria's Folake Coker, Momo by Nigeria's Fati Asibelua and Stoned Cherrie by South Africa's Nkhensani Nkosi -- are showing collections as part of the African Fashion Collective on Friday.

Scores of designers are showing their Fall 2009 collections at New York Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, a semi-annual event that attracts thousands of fashion industry insiders.

"I do think that the timing couldn't be better because there is that kind of euphoria over having a president of African origin," said Nkosi, who calls her looks "Afro-urban."

"But it is the worst time in some regard because people are a lot more careful of what they spend their money on," she said in an interview before the show.

The global economic downturn has U.S. consumers holding tightly to their purse strings, reluctant to spend money on discretionary purchases such as fashion.

Prices for Stoned Cherrie range from $500 to $2000.   Continued...