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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Generation Africa: Models Included

A fashion initiative in Florence brings asylum seekers and established African designers on to the catwalk

19 Января 2016

Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé. With every collection, the brand places a strong emphasis on societal issues that affect immigrant and transient populations
Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé. With every collection, the brand places a strong emphasis on societal issues that affect immigrant and transient populations

Which of the models walking the runway at the Generation Africa show in Florence were asylum seekers? The point was that even the catwalk pros could not tell — according to Simone Cipriani, founder of The Ethical Fashion Initiative.

By teaming up with the Pitti Discovery Foundation, part of the Pitti menswear fair in Florence, designers from across Africa were invited to present their collections for the second time.

From left, Walé Oyéjidé of Ikiré Jones; Gozi Ochonogor  of U.Mi-1; Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts; Lai-momo president, Andrea Marchese; Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative; and Jody Paulsen and Keith Henning of AKJP. The designers showc
From left, Walé Oyéjidé of Ikiré Jones; Gozi Ochonogor of U.Mi-1; Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts; Lai-momo president, Andrea Marchese; Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative; and Jody Paulsen and Keith Henning of AKJP. The designers showc

The idea, confirmed by Lapo Cianchi, head of Special Projects at Pitti Imagine, is to bring emerging designers under the spotlight, “both in terms of communication and real business opportunities”. 

AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen. In 2015, AKJP was one of the finalists at Vogue Italia’s Who Is On Next? Dubai
AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen. In 2015, AKJP was one of the finalists at Vogue Italia’s Who Is On Next? Dubai

Ethical fashion partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organisation that welcomes asylum-seekers to Italy and promotes cross-cultural exchanges between Africa and Europe.

AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen
AKJP, designed by South Africans Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen

I am sorry that it has taken a humanitarian disaster for Italy to welcome more models of African origin on the catwalk. But I’m confident that fashion can embrace the diversity of peoples, as well as of clothing, on runways across the world.

Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts
Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts

Selected and supported by ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, this was the second showcase of the African Designer Programme at Florence’s Menswear tradeshow, Pitti Uomo, to raise awareness of African fashion as well as social issues. The Ethical Fashion Initiative partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organisation working with migrants, and cast three asylum seekers as models in the show.

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Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé

Ikiré Jones, designed by Nigerian Walé Oyéjidé

South Africans Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts collaborated on this collection but have their own separate brands. The design partnership combines Mdingi’s minimalist approach with Coutts’ distinctive signature weaving style.

South Africans Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts collaborated on this collection but have their own separate brands. The design partnership combines Mdingi’s minimalist approach with Coutts’ distinctive signature weaving style.

U.Mi-1 by Gozi Ochonogor

U.Mi-1 by Gozi Ochonogor


“Africa is one of today’s creative poles and this show proves that African designers speak about art, life and innovation. At the same time, we are in an age in which many Africans come to Europe as migrants. We believe in a programme that enables them to work in the value chain of fashion,” said Simone Cipriani, Head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

U.Mi-1 (pronounced you.me.one) designed by Nigerian Gozi Ochonogor, whose collections are a blend of British tailoring’s aesthetic with Japanese artisanship and African spirit
U.Mi-1 (pronounced you.me.one) designed by Nigerian Gozi Ochonogor, whose collections are a blend of British tailoring’s aesthetic with Japanese artisanship and African spirit

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