They key to enjoying a fashion show is not to look too closely.
Should your eyes wander to the back of house, you will witness the chaos that consumes designers and production crew seconds before the show. Should you look at the front of house you will see dozens of people waiting to make it into the tents. And depending on the show, should you look at the left or right of the catwalk, you'll notice dozens of empty seats or dozens of people crowding in the aisles. But keep your eyes firmly on the catwalk and all you'll see is what you are meant to see: a model gliding gracefully on the runway.
All this applied on Day 2 of the ARISE Magazine Fashion Week, which was reeling from the cancellation of its first day of shows. The energy seemed less exuberant than what we'd witnessed in day one and a significantly smaller number of paying attendees turned up to witness the show. But besides disappointed audiences, the biggest damper seemed to be with designers. A survey of the production tents heard rumblings of designers who were upset that they had to cut their show down due to the time. Others decided not to show at all, with at least one designer pulling out.
But as the lights dimmed and the show began -- one could hardly tell.
Those keeping their eyes fixed solely on the catwalk saw why the wait was worth it: a collective of talented young designers who are redefining African fashion. Yesterday's line up featured seventeen back-to-back shows by Imane Ayissi of Cameroon, Mai Atafo of Nigeria and Kaveke of Kenya -- among others. While every single collection wasn't a hit, there were a handful of standouts that showcased fresh perspective and raw talent. These included Loza Maleombho of Cote d'Ivoire, whose structured embroidered vests and lush printed harem pants. Another was Sandra Muendane of Mozambique whose collection of softly draping dresses epitomized subtlety and sophistication.
By the end of the marathon evening, the audience felt far from fatigued. We'd seen exactly what many of us had traveled half the world to witness: an emerging generation of talented African designers. The trick, was not to look to closely.
Follow behind the scenes coverage of ARISE Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria on Blay's African Style & Culture site, Africa Style Daily.