Looking around the room, one could feel the celebration of African culture at the second annual fashion showcase, Ubuntu. Guests followed the dress code of “regally bold,” wearing bright blues and purples and bold prints representing the styles of countries throughout Africa. The St Andrews Afro-Caribbean Society hosted and honed in on all the details, decking out the Stage in colourful patterns as guests were greeted with tables covered in the beautiful designs that they were encouraged to wear.
The holders of VIP tickets were treated to a selection of appetiser platters that included samosas and fruit kebabs while with a standard ticket, guests received goodie bags and drink vouchers for a special cocktail. A portion of ticket proceeds went to a charity guests were invited to vote on. The crowd cheered when guest host Emiko took to the stage to introduce the beginning of the narrative and other interactive elements. All the way from West London with three new singles, Emiko had a bubbly energy which was catchy and set an upbeat tone.
There was a distinct narrative that ran throughout the show, and Sophia Lara Staffiero, part of the Ubuntu committee, was the narrator, telling a story of Africa’s past. The story was set in the time of the Keita Dynasty, when song and dance brought people together, and the showcase did a great job seamlessly incorporating the movement and music into the story, while still feeling like a fashion show as models walked the runway. The rich history of place and time played out in two-piece looks that featured bare midriffs and bikini top silhouettes, among other styles: there were peplum tops and trouser looks, impeccably tailored and all created by Khebane Diop, Heritage 54, Keep It Fax, and Ebony Fabrics.
The show was split by an intermission, allowing guests to refresh their drinks and the Ubuntu committee to find guests they found worthy of its fashion competition in the second half. It began with a performance by the Saints of Seoul, a relatively new K-Pop dance cover team. They were followed by more songs from Emiko, clearly a crowd favourite.
‘Stronger together’ was the theme throughout the second half. A spoken word poem about togetherness was performed by Naphysa Awuah, and to get the audience involved, there was a catwalk competition between four volunteers. After they walked the runway and the audience voted with their cheers, then came a fashion competition, where guests chosen during the intermission took to the stage and explained their outfit choices. The winner was decided in the same fashion—crowd volume!
Guests were encouraged to buy pieces from the designers, and five pieces were auctioned during the show with more available after. Though the Stage felt small at times, the intimate setting benefitted the interaction between runway action and exuberant guests.
Emiko provided the finale, belting one of his original songs and involving everyone in the high-energy showcase for one last dance – even choreographer Lulu Eseka joined the group on stage. But it wasn’t truly the end. Half of Club 601 was used for the afterparty, so many guests left, resulting in the room feeling fairly empty. Those who stayed didn’t regret it though, and kept the energy alive as they danced.
All photos courtesy of Sammi Ciardi Photos.