The Rebirth: African culture meets contemporary fashion



Taylor Malatesta

 On Feb. 18, The African & Caribbean Villanovans hosted their annual fashion show, The Rebirth, in Connelly Center’s Villanova Room.  The show, which began at roughly 7:30 p.m., lasted for nearly two hours and featured the works of four up-and-coming designers, each of whom artfully blended their distinct and unique styles with traditional African cultural influences.

 The first designer to have the work showcased that evening was NYB, whose collection consisted of casual ready-to-wear ensembles with a Caribbean flair.  Simple tee shirts and hoodies, as well as classic army and denim jackets, were embellished with patches of colorful tribal patterns and geometric prints. The designer of the cool and wearable collection, perfect for everyday use, not only created a clean crisp collection of modern and traditional African styles, but also managed to deftly work in an ode to American influence, as  well, as highlighted by the numerous American flag patches and embroidery seen in various pieces throughout the collection. 

 Mario & Lee Designs followed a lively and entertaining performance by Wazobia African Dance Company was. Mario & Lee Designs is, as described by the show’s hosts, “a black, Brooklyn-based company who strives to promote individuality and a new representation of what style and fashion is.” Certainly, Mario & Lee did just that.  The collection, which consisted of both men’s and women’s clothing, featured a variety of leather coats and bomber jackets, as well as sweaters and sweater dresses, whose monochromatic olive green fabrics created a clean and minimalistic aesthetic that felt modern and original.  Additionally, the red stripes and lace-up details featured in the collection’s set of casual grey dresses and men’s shirts brought a perfect pop of color and attention to detail to simplistic, yet stylish, classic cuts and styles. 

 After a 20-minute intermission, the show recommenced with what was perhaps the most visually striking collection, that of Amarachi Designs.  

 “Amarachi Designs was officially founded in September 2012 by Nigerian designer Jennifer Udechukwo,” said the show’s hosts. “Amarachi Designs is a handmade clothing and accessories company that specializes in Ankara wax print fabric.  Amarachi Designs takes beautiful bold prints from West African traditional culture and transforms it into beautiful, modern-day wear available at affordable prices.  All prints come in bold, rich colors that are fine and unique.”

 The collections not only lived up to their glowing descriptions, but exceeded them in beauty, grace and boldness.  The collection featured a combination of vibrant green, blue, gold, orange, red and yellow wax print fabrics with distinctly African floral patterns and paisley details.  The bell sleeve dresses and long, flowing skirts created a feeling of lightness and movement that captured the eye with their ethereal auras of effortlessness and grace, which were just as transfixing as the spectacular colors and details of the pieces themselves.

 Finally, to wrap up the show after another fantastic and energetic performance, this time by Drexel’s African Fusion dancers, was a collection from Villanova’s very own Chinasa Nwokocha, a senior here at the University and founder of Ataria NYC. 

 “In April 2014, Ataria NYC was founded,” the hosts for the evening explained. “It’s an online clothing store that pieces West African culture with European, Asian and American clothing styles.”  

 This stunningly chic and modern collection featured a variety of men’s and women’s clothing, that ranged from simple, yet colorful and exquisite day dresses for women, and casual tunics and button downs for men, to visually arresting evening gowns that struck a perfect balance between the classic elegance and drama of Old Hollywood, as exemplified by their elaborate trains, with bold yet understated African patterns and detail work. Overall, each ensemble was unique in its own right, but every piece came together to form a fantastically modern collection for every taste that made classical African styles, patterns and colors seem wholly new and original.

 Following the presentation of her collection, Nwokocha came onstage to say a few words. “I just want to say how grateful I am to always stand on this stage,” she said. “This is my last year as an undergrad doing this show, so thank you so much for the opportunity. ACV, you guys have been a family to me since freshman year, and I hope that you continue to grow as an organization. ” 

 The excitement of the evening’s show concluded with a fun, behind-the-scenes video of the ACV models preparing for the show.  The video, which drew roaring peals of laughter from the audience, showed the models singing, dancing and practicing their walks.  The models’ genuine excitement for the show radiated off the screen and kept the audience’s energy and excitement, as an audience, up until the very end of the evening. I left the show that night, as I am sure many others did, floored by the unbelievable talent, energy and passion that went into creating the show, and I left feeling even more excited for next year’s.