Designer, Maria, heads, to Ghana for the prestigious Mercedez Benz African Fashion Festival

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WINDHOEK-Well-known Namibian fashion designer, Maria Caley, is ready to showcase her latest collection in Accra, Ghana, during the Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival slated for May 29-31.

Maria says she is very excited…and nervous at the same time showcasing her collection at one of the biggest event in world.  She says she will be exhibiting her occasion wear for female, with her signature touches that mostly have beading details. “I started thinking about my concept and theme since last  December. The real work for fabric sourcing, experimenting and the actual construction, only started earlier this year,” says Maria. She says to come up with creativity, her mind is constantly thinking of new things of what to make. “It is often triggered by what is around me; the nature, a cloth, a movie or just random people around me, but whatever it is, it is always a way for me to express my self…and see how I can bring it out. As for the quality, my creations are not mass produced, so from printing or dying of the fabric, to stitching of the garment, the creation never leaves my hands until I am well satisfied then I am ready to put it out there for the whole world to see,” she says.

Maria will be showcasing her collection under her own brand, Amakeya Collection, a ‘White-on-White African’. These collections explore the possibility of creating a vibrant African collection, without the use of colour. “This creative journey has been sparked by the lack of original African textiles available in Namibia; putting aside the Ondelela (striped cloth) and Shweshwe (German prints), that is constantly available,” says Maria, adding that Namibia has a rich cultural heritage that is visible in all kinds of local crafts. “Instead of using African textiles, this collection makes use of Namibian local crafts as an inspiration; from printing to beading. The journey has not been easy, and I have fallen to the use of using touches of brown,” she says.

Maria first international fashion show was in Helsinki- Finland 2007, under Pambili Young Designers with Meanie Harteveld-Becker. She took in a group of three young designers for a mentorship workshop. “We had to do a collection inspired by Namibian material culture for the Moeti Helsinki. We all chose to work with what we were passionate about as Namibians. My collection was Ondelela with over prints to make it unique,” she says.

“We always look out for business opportunities and meeting other designers…you share and learn so much from the challenges other designers are facing. Sometimes you will see things are not always greener on the other side. In most cases we are facing with the same challenges,” she says. Maria adds that fashion moves in cycles, every now and then they see old styles making a comeback.  African fashion can offer something new or a bit of excitement to the fashion industry. She observes  how most of the international fashion shows  feature African designers and thereby becoming popular. “Designers have been searching for inspiration in Africa since the early days of fashion of the 1970s, from Yves Saint Laurent to Matthew Williamson; designers have taken elements from Africa as inspirations for their collections. I guess it’s only fair that African designers stand up and use inspiration from their cultural heritage and tell their own stories,” she says.

However, The Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival is aims to tailor to the African aesthetic. Their objective is to create industry professionals by advocating for African fashion enthusiasts. They aim to promote knowledge, not only of the artistic side of the fashion industry, but also of the technical and business sides of it. In addition they also show endeavour to support sustainable community projects in Africa and promote exemplary citizenship.

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