My name is Safuratu Bakare, and I am the Curator of the annual African Fashion Show here in Australia.

The African Fashion Show presents contemporary fashion creations of Western Australian based designers, of African descent, to the world. The show also expose Australians of all different heritage to African culture, fostering understanding and appreciation of diversity across backgrounds.

Conceived in 2017 with the first show taking place in 2018, annually the African Fashion show has continued to provide a bridge across the divide and enrich the fashion narrative in Australia and beyond. The show has become a reference point for pace-setting and discussion centered on African Fashion in Western Australia. We are motivated to take the experience and contributions made in the state to other capital cities in Australia. Hence, our plan in the coming years is to have the African Fashion Show to hold yearly in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin.

This passion project, with humble beginning, started from experiencing first hand the challenges of Cultural Acceptability of migrants into Australia. Fashion is a universal language but there existed a wide gulf in terms of understanding and appreciation of African fashion. My response to this was to start a discussion around this among my network and associates. I then built on this foundation by exhibiting purely African sourced and created fashion apparel, accessories, designs and chattels at various community events such as those of the City of Wannerroo, the City of Stirling and the annual Jambo Africa Show. In addition to this, I took these beautiful authentic African pieces for exhibition at the Everywoman Expo and have been part of dressing up models uniquely in them at the annual Miss African Perth events.

Migration does have impacts, especially on women who can suffer deeper isolation on arrival in a new country, mostly with their spouses engaged in productive employment in the economy. This as well as the attendant lack of financial independence could be very scary. The African Fashion Show has created a platform for some to be gainfully engaged in fashion design and continues to provide unparalleled opportunity for small CALD businesses to have a voice and showcase their talent, thereby building confidence and self esteem in our women. The aim is to help them break boundaries, make deeper connections into their new home and business. We are also empowering our youths. Annually 15-20 models from different parts of Africa background are assisted to build their skills and confidence through modeling. Additionally, we are providing them with clear opportunities to make a leaving through the creative arts, fashion being an obvious choice.

The need to integrate into the culture of a new environment continues to be a challenge that CALD people continue to experience. This is ideal but should not lead to discarding of our cultural heritage. Through our efforts at the African Fashion Shows, we have been able to imbibe a sense of pride in Africans in their native fashion dresses, designed to meet the needs of today. At life events such as Marriages, it is now a trend to be seen dressed in African clothes.

It gladdens my heart to note that, gradually, other Australians are getting to see African Fashion in the positive. At the 2019 Melbourne Cup held at Belmont Park, a gorgeously dressed caucasian lady was the winner of the best dressed lady at the event. The African “Gele”, delicately perched on her head was considered a tad better fashion statement than the “Fascinator” that women had been wearing for ages to horse races. This was a big win and we continue to look out for similar success stories.