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Africa en vogue and loving it at Dakar Fashion Week event

DAKAR--Fashion has never been as Afrocentric and African designers at the Dakar Fashion Week gave their own spin to prints and fabrics inspiring celebrities and fashion houses.

The event wrapped Sunday with a final show drenched in glamour, showcasing what's hot from Mali to Equatorial Guinea to Ivory Coast this season.

African prints are currently inspiring big names from Beyonce to Burberry, with the iconic British brand's 2012 collection shot through with bright printed batik material. Singer and designer Gwen Stefani also adopted the theme in 2011.

Designers in Dakar, such as U.S.-based Senegalese Yolande Mancini, were on the pulse with her red dress with batik shoulders and gold dress with bright printed cape.

Malian designer Maria Bakhoum's collection was in earthy tones with the traditional Bogolan mudcloth while Equatorial Guinea's Alfredo Monsuy mixed satin and silk with traditional wax prints.

From Morocco's Meryem Boussikouk — a collection of modern caftans in “hot African colors” and contemporary cuts.

But, being an African designer isn't all about ethnic prints as Ivorian Patrick Asso showed with his all-blue collection.

“There are African designers doing beautiful things which are not African,” said Almamy Lo, the artistic director responsible for choosing the designers.

Organizer Adama Paris, a former model and now a designer, began the event nine years ago despite massive challenges and no government support in the west African nation.

“I really think that there is a market, there is an audience. People love fashion in Africa, they buy it. I don't know why it isn't structured. I sell, people sell, but we don't have distribution channels so everybody just sells where we can,” she told AFP.

“The most difficult thing is showing your designs.”

There is no venue in Dakar for an event like this and organizers are forced to hold shows in restaurants and hotels.

The budget was cut this year as the financial crisis discouraged sponsors and the event got off to a rocky start with a silent opening night as the country's copyright bureau shut off the music claiming fees had not been paid.

Despite the difficulties, Paris presses ahead with her dream.

“We have so much talent. They just need a push,” she said, stressing that one should not underestimate the African fashionista.

“Even the girl who lives in a village goes to the hairdresser once a month at least,” Paris said.

But like many of the designers, her biggest challenge is getting Africans to buy locally, with European designers and brand names still the most coveted.

“Right now it is the time of African fashion and fabric. It is colorful and it's something different. We want to show a different Africa, not just war and death that the west shows, but a bit of glamour.”

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