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Meet the African designer dressing Caribbean queens

COUTURE FOR QUEENS: Francis Agyapong with Miss Caribbean UK 2014 contestants

HE STARTED off as a men’s tailor, but now Ghanaian-born fashion designer Francis Agyapong is dressing Caribbean royalty – well sort of.

Known for his vibrant couture designs and beautiful silhouettes, the designer, known as Mr Francis, has become a rising star of beauty pageant fashion, designing gowns for shows including Miss Caribbean UK and Miss Guyana UK.

In a world full of glitz, glamour and countless sequins, it’s a far cry from his former role as a tailor at Harrods and Dege & Skinner.

“I’ve been in the fashion industry for a while now,” says Agyapong, founder of fashion house AgyeFrance Design. “After many years working in menswear, I diverted to women’s fashion. I wanted to design beautiful couture dresses for women who want to look amazing and feel confident.”

He adds: “I love to spend time thinking about what to create for a woman to wear. It’s more of a challenge than menswear. There’s more choice of shapes and fabrics.”

Most recently, the 43-year-old designed an outfit for 2015’s Miss Caribbean UK winner Amy Harris-Willock – an elegant ruby red gown covered in crystals.

Harris-Willock, from Birmingham, represented Antigua and Barbuda at the pageant, and was crowned the new Miss Caribbean UK in December.

CROWNING GLORY: 2015 Miss Caribbean UK winner Amy Harris-Willock wearing one of Agyapong’s designs

Though pageants are often criticized for being sexist and outdated, Agyapong believes that the ceremonies still have their place today.

“I think pageants are still relevant,” he affirms. “They give the contestants the chance to show what they have. They show that women can speak out and stand out for themselves.
“It makes them feel more confident,” he continues. “For them to get on the stage in swimwear and eveningwear, they are very brave. For them to do that, it takes courage.”

Although he grew up in Ghana and trained in designing traditional African-wear, Agyapong developed an interest in Caribbean fashion.

“I grew up seeing my mum wearing traditional Ghanaian clothing, so when I started my business, I started making them myself,” he explains. “But when you do that, you only target a small group – you don’t get to expand your skills or design for different kinds of people. With my designs, I want to reach out to people worldwide with my designs – not just Africans.”

He continues: “The pageants give me a chance to reach out to a Caribbean clientele. I love Caribbean fashion – bold and bright colours, and that’s what we stand for.
“We make clothes for bold and confident women – those that want to stand out in a crowd.”

For more information, follow @Agyefrance on Instagram

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