Africa Fashion Week Montreal is more than just a fashion show, it is a fashion family full of support and positive energy. It is every designers dream.
President of the organization, Kama St. Juste takes us inside AFWMTL and shares with StyleIsInFashion her vision to propel African and Caribbean designers to their highest level of productivity.
Get familiar with designers who are having global impact that reaches well beyond the realm of fashion. They are gifted visionaries, dedicated to creating their best work and bringing out the absolute best in the people they work with as a result.
Please find information on attending AFWMTL at the end of my interview with the driven Kama St. Juste.
Vanessa Sandy: Tell us about your role as President of Africa Fashion Week?
Kama St. Juste: I am in charge of the decision making for the whole organization, from choosing the designers and models to deciding what our next event will look like.
VS: Where did the vision to bring Africa Fashion Week to Montreal come from?
KS: I come from a family of seamstresses and designers. I’ve always wanted to create my modern African clothing line but once in school I realized sewing and creating patterns was not for me. I continued on and became a stylist , preparing seminars and dressing my clients for their events. One day someone spoke to me about AFW, I really didn’t know what it was until I started looking into it. I then realized that it was a worldwide event that had not been implemented in Montreal. I decided to create it here but with a few changes. I wanted to promote emergent and known designers of African and Caribbean decent. I also wanted AFWMTL to be a voice for them. We have so many talented designers in Quebec, Ontario etc., but not many people know them. These designers don’t know what to do to get known and our show is a way for them to show the world who they are and what they can do. We don’t only promote them during the show, we also match them up with people who can help them succeed.
VS: What is the biggest impact you have had so far with AFWMTL?
KS: We have been able to fulfill a lot of people’s dreams. We have had so many testimonies from models and designers etc, and this is what makes us happy, being able to help others and create long lasting dreams.
VS: What are you most proud of as an organization?
KS: Our humility and love we have to help others succeed.
VS: What can visitors expect at the 2 night event?
KS: We have Eldior Sodeck from New York, she is a very talented designer who had showcased her designs last year. We also have the ‘We are Kings’ collection by King Hector Jr., a designer from Ottawa who did the Safara fashion show last fall hosted by Karrueche Tran. We have local designers as well. The fashion show will be held in an art gallery called Gallery MX on Viger street, Old Montreal. It won’t be your regular fashion show with a regular catwalk, we at AFWMTL like to do things differently, the atmosphere will be intimate and our models will be following a path throughout the whole art gallery. We also have a contest, our partners will be judging the designers throughout the whole show and the winner will be announced on the 18th.
VS: Africa is a big continent. What are some of the countries being represented by designers?
KS: We have designers from Gabon and Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Congo RDC. Haiti, Iran and Italy are also represented.
VS: Talk about some of the runway models we should be looking out for to make their mark in the world of fashion.
What would you say makes these men and women so outstanding?
KS: You should be looking out for Paige Jean-Jacques, Alan Torrent, Amique Lengrai, Maycie-Ann St. Louis, Shekinah Isaac, Justine Phillip Car, Aman Rattanpal and Nini Amerlise. They are just amazing models with great talent, great attitude and they know how to work it on the catwalk.
VS: Tell us about the feedback you have been getting from the major cities that have hosted AFW.
KS: We have other Africa Fashion Weeks following us and liking what we are doing.
VS: Are there any influential buyers or celebrity guests who have attended AFWMTL?
KS: The incredible Korto Momolu had showcased her designs in our first edition show, she was just amazing. We have a great designer who will be ending the show on Saturday (we cannot give out her information) but she will have key people during the show. We will have radio host Nikki Clarke from Toronto and a few more surprises.
VS: Here in North America we have pieces that are considered wardrobe staples, such as a pencil skirt, a blazer, a little black dress and a sleek pant suit. Are there staples in African fashion as well?
KS: Yes the same as the ones North America. Fashion is the same everywhere, the only difference with African clothing is the fabric.
VS: How has fashion and style evolved over the past few decades?
KS: African fashion has definitely evolved from what it used to be. Back in the day, no one was interested in them because of the cuts and the bold colors but today, it has been modernized, people want to look different, people are wearing more and more prints. We have celebrities wearing African garments from designers such as David Tlale. We have Alphadi, an award winning fashion designer who founded the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), an event where African designers work with designers such as Yves Saint. Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Paco Rabanne.
With technology, people don’t necessarily have to go to the malls to shop, they can order their clothes from all parts of the world, which makes things much easier for them. We have Zuvaa, a website where you can purchase all kinds of African clothes created by designers who live in Canada and the U.S. There are many more opportunities now for shoppers which is really great.
VS: Where do you see the organization headed in the near future?
KS: We have many more projects, AFWMTL is not only about the yearly fashion show. We have a Designer Seminar which takes place in September, We have the Be Your Own Boss Seminar which will be held next and many other surprises.
Stay tuned for the rest and expect the unexpected!
Come and experience Africa Fashion Week 2016 themed Afro Fusion June 17 & 18 at Galerie MX 333 Viger Street, Old Montreal. Shows begin at 8pm each night.