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AFAM19 DESIGNERS

Tribe Àṣàní: Pelumi Ogunbanwo
Growing up with a fashion entrepreneur for a mother, Pelumi Ogunbanwo was preparing for a career in fashion and design without even knowing it. As a child she would design clothes for fun, before she was even old enough to wear her own designs. Eventually she went on to graduate with a degree in Psychology and Business and when searching for the right convocation outfit she came up empty-handed, she decided to take matters into her own hands. With this push, as well as some research and travelling, “Tribe Àṣàní was born.”
Ogunbanwo grew up in Nigeria, Europe, the Middle East and Canada and that eclectic upbringing has certainly impacted her designs. She draws from the variety of “environment, religion, and culture” she experienced and strives to “incorporate all of that into each collection.” With functionality as her main inspiration, Ogunbanwo strives to “incorporate your uniqueness in daily life through clothing.” Her designs are a mix of “vintage fashion, comfort and drama” and while she draws from traditional Nigerian influences, Ogunbanwo tries to “combine African heritage in a contemporary way.” This blend of traditional and contemporary makes Tribe Àṣàní a modern, flexible line that is suitable for everyday wear. Or as Ogunbanwo puts it: “an unapologetically African line of clothing that can be work to work, school or wherever your daily life takes you.” Mindful of her social footprint, the clothes are made in Nigeria to support the local economy.
Grown from the desire to “make customizable clothing more accessible”, Ogunbanwo has had her challenges along the way. Specifically, finding a balance as she juggles a full-time job and a full-time business. She would encourage new designers to embrace the struggle and really lean into the ideas that inspired you initially. “Make a decision between fearlessly running with your ideas or stressing out,” she says, “My advice is that your energy is more productively spent finding solutions rather than doubting the dream.” Her passion and accomplishments, both personally and professionally, are evidence of this drive for success. “Chase each idea fearlessly to it’s fruition,” she reassures, “celebrate your little victories and constantly aim to do better.”
This will be Ogunbanwo’s first time showcasing her designs at an AFAM event and she is looking forward to “meeting and getting to know the designers.” Creating African design in Canada is a way for her to represent Nigeria “in one of Her most creative and accessible forms” and Ogunbanwo does so “in hopes of helping with economic/social development now and in the future.” The collaborative showcase of designers at the AFAM event is a way to “inspire growth in Africa beyond her borders.”
Keanukrafts Ethnic Creations : Oghoadena Osubele
Oghoadena Osubele’s foray into fashion and design was “born out of the initiative to empower women and youth” in her community of Nigeria, West Africa. Combining her passion for teaching and her affinity for handmade crafts and accessories, Osubele became part of a program that equipped youth and women with profitable skills to become gainfully self-employed. Working as the program coordinator until she came to Canada in 2014, Osubele was able to share her love of her culture and ethnic designs with those in need in her community.
As a designer in Canada, Osubele continues to be inspired by Nigeria. She says her “designs are influenced by the environment in which {she} grew” and she draws from Africa’s “rich and colourful culture.” Her brand, Keanukrafts, is a way to “promote a love for African fashion and style and to educate and share about {her} African heritage,” and she wants her customers to “feel beautiful, elegant, and confident.”
Osubele’s style has evolved as she has moved, with her pieces reflecting both her heritage, as well as her current Canadian surroundings. This collaboration of cultures has also, at times, proven challenging. Sometimes there is “resistance to something new” and she admits it can be challenging to “integrate into the community.” While the Vancouver fashion community can be very diverse, at times this diversity is a challenge itself, especially when it comes to a newcomer trying to find their way in an established market. However, Osubele stays true to her roots, maintaining that her “cultural heritage is a factor of {her} identity” and that she will strive to build {her} own community within this community.”
Osubele speaks to another, practical challenge: authentic materials and resources can be expensive and hard to come by. Staying true to these materials is essential to her designs, as her pride in African style, colours and culture is a crucial part of Osubele’s inspiration. This passion guides her advice to new designers starting out: “Let their designs speak and educate your audience about where you are coming from or your cultural heritage in a positive way.” Osubele brings this positivity to AFAM’s 2019 show, as she is looking forward to showcasing African rich culture in fashion and style” as well as continuing to show her “support for women and youth empowerment in {her} home country Nigeria.” Oghoadena Osubele’s jewellery is sure to be a vibrant addition to this year’s lineup!
Red Soil: Jennifer Allison
Local designer Jennifer Allison didn’t set out to become a brand name in African fashion. Initially she was inspired by her world travels, especially the fabrics she had brought home from Africa. She began by making pieces for herself and soon enough her friends noticed. They encouraged her to design and sell items as a business and “from there,” she says, “Red Soil was born.”
Jennifer is inspired by the “bright, bold and unique patterns,” as well as “the countries and people that embody the fabric!” She says the most important thing to remember is to “keep it simple”, as it become easy to have too much on the go and become overloaded with different fabrics. This simplicity is perfectly showcased in her favourite item of this year’s collection: Red Soil’s bowties. She loves how there are “so many bold colours and patterns in such a small design space.”
To Red Soil, social responsibility is just as important as their inspiration. Their items are handmade in Canada, with fabrics sourced from Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They also use their success to give back to African communities, by donating proceeds from each sale to “fund education and medical care…in remote parts of the globe,” which empowers consumers to make a difference with their purchases.
Jennifer’s biggest challenge engaging in the fashion industry has been learning. She expresses great passion and respect for African and their fashion/fabrics and says to her “it is so much more than fashion….I learn from the people, I learn from the past, from the stories told and from the music!” Her advice to new designers just starting out falls in line with this thinking. She encourages them to “keep asking questions and always keep learning.” To Jennifer, fashion is a tool that can inspire and help others along the way and she encourages new designers to “remember to follow your heart.”
Jennifer feels that “African fashion in Vancouer is growing and making its mark” and with AFAM’s February event just around the corner, she feels “honoured to be showcasing Red Soil’s pieces.”
Marbling Creations by Ebru Pinar
Ebru Pinar grew up in Istanbul, Turkey in a middle-class family with high-class taste. With an eye for detail, fashion and textile design were always of interest to her. After studying textiles in high school, Ebru completed her bachelors of Education and has spent the last 20 years teaching. Now, she is blending her love of education and fashion in her design debut. “I have always had this artsy part of me that I never got to embrace,” says Ebru, “now it’s time to do that. I am unleashing everything that I have collected and shaped up for my entire life.”
 Inspired by a volunteer trip to East Africa in 2018, Ebru hopes to convey the people and culture she experienced, while contributing to the positive narrative of Africa in the fashion industry. “To me Africa is the motherland,” Ebru says, “I care to empower this beautiful, intelligent, multi-talented, amazing people!” That inspiration has served as the driving source behind Ebru’s debut collection, which she has dedicated much trial and error to in the design process. She has sourced friends and strangers for feedback, even setting up a pop-up shop to survey people’s impressions of her designs. Ebru was looking for “honest feedback” so she could “implement [it] to create something that will speak to [her] target market.” Her hope is that her customers will feel a sense of purpose when wearing her products, as “they are not only a commodity” but also a “mindful purchase.”
Last year Ebru Pinar participated in the African Fashion and Arts Movement as a model, upon returning from her trip to Africa. When asked about being involved as a designer in AFAM this year she said she “is stoked about being part of it as a designer” and is “looking forward to [getting] together and [spreading] this rich culture to Canadian communities.”
Ethio House of Fashion : Shito Mohammed
With a name directly grown from the roots of this designer, Ethio House of Fashion comes from the inspiration of Shito Mohammed. Growing up in Jimma, Ethiopia, Shito learned discipline as she watched her parents manage their successful plantation. After nearly a decade in Saudi Arabia, she enrolled in fashion design school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and opened her own shop upon graduation.
Shito moved to Vancouver soon after, along with her daughter and husband. She enrolled at the John Casablancas Institute to improve her skills even further. With her she brought a confidence in creating well-tailored, comfortable clothing, as well as a commitment to the “rich and colorful fabrics of Ethiopia” from which her garments are exclusively created. Shito is consistently inspired by tradition; “I am not New York, London or Paris,” she says, “I am Ethiopian.” In keeping with her dedication to her home country, 10% of every purchase is donated to the youth of Ethiopa.
Shito Mohammed says her collection is “all about comfort and versatility” and wishes “to show the beauty of [her] culture and to enjoy other cultures designs” at this year’s African Fashion and Arts Movement.

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