Fashion show hails kanga as east Africa's kimono

Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:42am EST
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By Katrina Manson

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters Life!) - For women in Tanzania's humid Dar es Salaam port city, the "kanga" is must-have material, functioning as an everyday wraparound dress, bath towel, shawl and, when ragged, dish cloth and mop too.

But for Mustafa Hassanali, a popular local designer who organized this year's second annual Swahili Fashion Week, the traditional rectangular kanga cloth from east Africa's Indian Ocean coast means much more.

"Just as India has saris and Japan has the kimono, we have the kanga," he said after the show, as Tanzania's glitterati exchanged air kisses under the moon by an outdoor catwalk.

"We have to take east African fashion to the international market."

Models strutted down the runway under bright lights and low-hanging tree branches wearing an array of vivid colors and traditional cloth sewn into figure-hugging mini-dresses.

"Growth comes with baby steps," said Hassanali.

"East Africa lags behind west and South African fashion, but 80 years ago there was no Paris Fashion Week ... We have to take our clothes to a new level."

About 20 designers took part in this year's event, many of them newcomers.   Continued...

<p>Models wear creations of bright colours and traditional cloth stitched into figure-hugging mini-dresses at Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Katrina Manson</p>