03/12/2012 11:21 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Dispatch From Africa: Day 3 at ARISE Magazine Fashion Week

The collections were interesting -- but it was the designers who intrigued me.

As each of them took a bow on the second day at ARISE Magazine Fashion Week, I noticed a theme.

From the exuberant bow by Romero Bryan of Jamaica, to the fresh-faced beauty of Lia Kebede or the funky presentation of Patricia Mbela of Poisa, to the triumphant one of Christie Brown from Ghana -- there was a youthful energy about each.

It was no surprise that of the seventeen designers that showed yesterday at least a dozen of them were under thirty. They shared a range of stories, from one who had worked at Donna Karan in New York City before returning to Nigeria to start her collection or Kezia Frederick of St. Lucia, a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins.

Their youth isn't remarkable -- but their spending is. They represent a growing tide of young Africans who are opting to return home as entrepreneurs than stay in the west as professionals. They've turned their backs on their parents' dreams to be lawyers in London, doctors in New York or accountants in Milan.

But they haven't turned their back on their traditions.

In fact, as a whole, the seventeen collections I saw yesterday were an homage to Mother Africa. The most obvious and predictable was Batik print and Kente which dominated collections by designers like Davida and Christie Brown. But the freshest and most unexpected was by Kezia Frederic. The young designer debuted a collection that seemed inspired by the markets of West Africa. From intricately tied head wraps to fabrics wrapped around the waist, it was an inspired debut and one of the strongest collections of the day.

Others presented collections that were completely devoid of any common references to the continent. Nigerian brand House of Farrah debuted sultry, sophisticated gowns crafted from silk jersey that simply floated down the runway and PhunkAfrique chose tweed as the signature fabric in its collection of trousers, blazers and gowns -- while menswear designer Buki Akib delivered a collection that was daring, defiant and refreshing. Whether literally or abstract in its homage, each of these collections reflected the range of African talent. As designer after designer took a bow -- I found myself doing something I usually refrain from at fashion shows -- giving applause.

I was as proud of them as they were of their continent.

Follow behind the scenes coverage of ARISE Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria on Blay's African Style & Culture site, Africa Style Daily.

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