by Shaina Blakesley
African garments are tailored not simply for appearance or merely to make a fashion statement, but each color, symbol and even shape of the clothing can have a very specific purpose or meaning. African attire may be worn as a symbol of status, creativity and an allegiance to the traditional roots.
Central Connecticut’s African Student Organization presented their annual fashion show, Reclaiming the Culture on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Welte Auditorium.
The fashion show began with the CCSU student models approaching the stage while dancing and sporting African national flags and the same flags adorned the top of the stage.
Kwarteng’s goal was to present two important aspects of African culture, fashion and dance, in an entertaining way.
ASO President, Cassandra Kwarteng, “hope[s] to keep people not only aware but updated on our culture as trends are constantly changing.”
Showcased were designs by Ataria NYC, Ubora Design, and EZ Clothing. Several of these collections by the designers are CCSU derived, such as RemmyDesigns and Dirac by Amaal. The ASO Men scene paid tribute to the recent film, “Black Panther,” which is also aimed at breaking stereotypes.
Erika Mason, communications major, modeled in this years fashion show and it empowered her while emphasizing her devotion to her culture.
“I wanted to embrace my culture and step outside of my comfort zone. It was the best decision I’ve made here,” Mason said. “The E-board and all the models make it a family, everyone loves each other and I would do it all over again in a heart beat.”
ASO wanted these designers to incorporate their individual cultures into their outfits.
“ASO hopes that audience members broke any negative stereotypes that may have existed,” Kwarteng said. “Africa is a big continent, which possess many cultures, we wanted audience members to recognize that not every country in Africa is the same.”
Ataria NYC’s CEO and president, Chinasa Nwokocha, and ambassador and vice president, Adeos Yeboah, featured their exclusive designs on the runway, which Nwokocha started in her early years at college.
“What inspired it was that I was unable to get an internship my freshman year of college, and as a business major I wanted to show that I was out here and what I am capable of,” Nwokocha said. “The company blossomed into Ataria NYC and our brand has grown, because our four-year anniversary is April 14 and we have even been nominated on Forbes.”
The company’s production is divided between New York, Nigeria and China. Ataria NYC is a fashion destination that offers every day clothing products. The company’s mission is to create an “appreciation for global culture by bridging the gap between African, American, Asian and European clothing styles,” according to their website.
Central’s own Remmy Richardson, founder of RemmyDesigns, presented the audience with her original designs that integrated her African culture. Richardson had been sewing and crafting apparel for a while, but it really took off when she got a sewing machine.
“My sister bought me a sewing machine, when I was 21, because she was sick of me hand stitching stuff and it would be all over the room and everything, which lead to this, my first collection,” Richardson said. “I used to make things for myself and they told me to do this, this year.”
Mason walked the runway draped in the designers apparel from her first collection.
“Her outfit gave me so much confidence and she is so sweet and talented. Her clothing is outstanding I would buy every piece of hers from that show,” Mason said.
Another CCSU student, Amaal Sugulleh modeled and presented her collection in the fashion show. Her inspiration stemmed from being born in Somalia and the country’s culture and traditional clothing.
The audience was graced with a performance from the Central Step and Dance Crew and OmoNaija, which blended traditional and modern African-styled music. A local rapper, King K.C. performed his song that was released on Spotify and iTunes. Former Hartford raised choreographer, Darrin Little, performed an emotional piece for his cousin to Rhianna’s song “Love on the Brain.”
In totality, the event embarked on a journey that encompassed the African culture and it’s traditions. The audience, performers, models and designers were able to be apart of ASO’s blend of African cultures.
“As a model this is a place to grow and build confidence and embrace the culture no matter what your culture may be,” Mason said. “As a viewer we hope we could open their eyes to new cultures and fashion and get everyone in the crowd to have an amazing time and feel like they are part of the show.”
ASO meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center, room 1849.
“The purpose of ASO shall be to promote a sense of awareness of African culture on the CCSU campus through events, empowerment discussions, and support systems.” Kwarteng said. “This club has been the highlight of my college experience as I get the opportunity to spread awareness on my culture.”