Remember #TheHabibatiTag we wrote about, little more than a month ago? If you don’t: it was about women – and to a lesser extent men – who complained about narrow-minded beauty standards. By sharing pictures of themselves on the internet, they were making a statement: we may not be white, but we too can be beautiful. Some people now take it a little further. Welcome to Ethno Tendance 2015, the Brussels fashion event which is all about diversity and self-acceptance.
The venue is an old warehouse, along the canal, which is an industrial location now living a second life as an event space.
It’s clear right from the beginning: white people are a minority in here. But it doesn’t make us feel any less welcome. On the contrary. We feel like being on a trip to the fashionable heart of Africa, with men and women wearing the most extraordinary outfits. Belgians are known to be modest people, afraid of sticking out when dressed up. In here, a bespoke attire feels natural. Although some of the dandy-like “sapeurs” (short for société des ambianceurs et des personnes élégantes) may be exaggerating with their selfies. But still, it’s a visual feast.
The same applies to what happens on the catwalk. As Ethno Tendance wants to present us another view on the world of fashion, all kinds of men and women pass the audience. Models we can relate to. The message is: it’s okay to be yourself, to have a curvaceous body or to have scars or wounds,… According to the organizer, it’s also the first time in Europe to have models with a reduced mobility on the catwalk. A far cry from the cold and elitist world of haute couture.
Just like the audience itself, most designers have a black African background. For instance: Cérina de Rosen from Sudan-Angola, Tidjane Kenny from Benin-Gambon or Adama Paris from Senegal. Not exactly the kind of countries you’d associate with fashion. Then there’s Soucha from Egypt and various Belgian designers such as Sara Roces Buelga or Sténopé. Doesn’t ring a bell? Don’t worry. They’re no celebrities. But they might have a future. And this is why.
Not just a show
The world changes at a fast pace. But the fashion industry lags behind, which is kind of strange. Because in order to survive, it will need to adapt. The facts say so. According to the United Nations, Africa’s population will double to 2.4 billion people by 2050, more than a quarter of the world’s estimated population. The number of Asians is on the rise as well, whereas white people in Europe and the US are slowly becoming a minority.
Here’s another fact: believe it or not, extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. No need to be overly optimistic though. In the poorest regions of the world – Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – there remains a lot of work to be done. However, within ten years from now, the majority of Africans will be living in towns and cities, in economic environments which are becoming increasingly productive.
Now, with hunger being gradually eradicated and new African generations being larger in numbers and having a decent income in the future, where do you think they’re going to spend their money? On fashion they can’t relate to?