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Award beckons for Africa-inspired couture

PRINTS CHARMING: Entrepreneurs Abi Fashesin (left) and Ashley-Rae Tapping (right) work on their clothing line

A DESIGNING dream team whose Africa-inspired clothing line has been featured on some of the pages of Britain’s most popular magazines are in the running for a Spirit of London Award.

Hackney duo Abi Fashesin and Ashley- Rae Tapping are the fashion entrepreneurs behind Loud Culture Designs, which they founded last year in a bid to bring their heritage to the high street.

The friends wanted to fuse traditional prints with contemporary clothing for style-conscious young women who are equally proud of their culture. Their vision of fashion has been a smash hit.

So desirable have been the designs that pop star Diana Vickers was thrilled to squeez into their signature high-waisted knickers for the front cover of More magazine.

Spreads in top publications like Look, Grazia and Pride followed, earning them some much-deserved recognition.

Now, they are one of three finalists in the fashion category at an annual celebration of the capital’s most exceptional young people to be held at the O2 Arena on December 10.

Ashley-Rae, who is of Nigerian, Jamaican and Irish descent, said: “Growing up in London it was so important for us to do something that represents who we are but also inspires the younger generation.

“It is a positive thing to embrace your culture. Being African is something to be proud of. One of the ways you can express that is through your clothes. Some of the traditional designs aren’t always the best but we think our line is something you can see Beyonce or Rihanna wearing.”

So convinced were the business partners that they sent a sample to Rihanna’s PA, but it was her best friend Melissa Forde who wore it while on holiday in the summer. “So we didn’t get Rihanna to wear it but we got the closest thing,” said Ashley-Rae with a laugh.

Loud Culture ­– which stands for Live Out Ur Dream – is part of the fashion industry’s growing love affair with Africa.

Fashion houses Fendi and Burberry both had collections featuring African fabric this year, but Ashley-Rae said they were bemused that it was referenced as 'tribal'.

“They did not make a direct association with Africa,” explained Ashley-Rae. “We definitely do.”

Fashion undergraduate Abi, who has Ghanaian and Nigerian roots, added: “Loud is all about standing out and making a statement. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin.”

Many young British women are now embracing the so-called Afropolitan look epitomised by celebrities like Solange Knowles.

But Ashley-Rae said: “We like the Afropolitan look but we don’t think an African print has to be partitioned off into something separate. They can be well-loved pieces that you incorporate into your wardrobe.”

Loud Culture Designs faces tough competition for the Spirit of London award from 24-year-old jewellery designer Samantha Park, who did not let dyslexia prevent her from starting her online fashion store at age 15.

Three friends from Tottenham who created menswear line Doccia Apparel as an A-Level business project, are also in the running.

Using their own funds Emeka Oparah, Jade Griffith and Derek Nyarko made it official when they started their company while studying at university. They have recently signed a sponsorship deal with Red Rooms.

Other award nominees from African and Caribbean backgrounds include:
Arnold Sarfo-Kantanka (Community Champion), Emmanuel Akintunde (Arts), online series Mandem on the Wall (Media), Joelyn Morrall (Arts), Shadrach Straker (Business), and Tottenham Song Jeremiah Emmanuel and Sapphire Timson, all in the Young Hero category.

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