The Fab 5 Bridge Builders are five Afro-descendent designers living and working in Italy, discovered and brought to international attention by the Afro Fashion Association and supported by the mentorship of renowned designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan.
Introducing Spring/Summer 2022
Nyny Ryke Goungou
Judith Saint Jermain
In the Press
Vanity Fair Italy
Afro Fashion Week Milano al via
Born in Nigeria, Joy Ijeoma Meribe graduated in foreign languages and literature before moving to Italy, where she caught the fashion bug while doing a master’s degree in business studies in Reggio Emilia. She founded her own label in 2017. “I’m inspired by the strong women in my family,” she said. “They made me believe in myself and gave me the confidence to achieve even the most impossible dreams. This collection is my homage to my fierce mother and to my formidable grandmother, and to all the strong women striving to get a seat at the men’s table.” Meribe favors a feminine, elegant silhouette; the collection she presented was joyful and vibrant with saturated colors. A graceful bell-sleeved dress with geometric prints was cinched at the waist with a bright blue sash; an opera coat in golden yellow silk satin had contrasting intarsias at the hem. A Prussian-blue jumpsuit in smooth satin worn under a matching evening coat looked chic. Meribe worked with high-end silk mill Taroni and collaborated with designer Andres Caballero to develop her collection.
Gisèle Claudia Ntsama
Born in Cameroon, Gisèle Claudia Ntsama moved to Italy, where she studied fashion design at Bologna’s Fine Arts Academy. Through an Erasmus program she traveled to Strasbourg, where she broadened her knowledge of textiles. Hemp is her favorite fiber, for its sustainability and versatility. Her passion for fashion is nurtured by a love for contemporary art and of Japanese designers such as as Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, and Rei Kawakubo. The capsule collection she presented was exceptionally crafted using only hemp fibers. Artisanal and textural, it had an organic, artsy vibe; hemp, used as a knitting yarn, gave an interesting raw feel to her creations. Sensual openwork tunics in natural colors alternated with more practical hand-knitted long dusters, shown over matching sweaters worn as minidresses. A standout was a pouf skirt with a corrugated wavy texture, paired with a sexy off-the shoulder oversized sweater. To make her creations come to life, Ntsama worked with Maglificio Pisani and Al-An Tricot Srl.
Fabiola Manirakiza was born in Burundi and came to Italy in the ’60s with her sister and launched her label Frida-Kizai n 2016. A lover of imaginative prints, for the WAMI showcase she offered a spirited interpretation of Primavera, the famous painting by Italian Renaissance artist Botticelli. “I thought that in this difficult moment we need a rebirth, and what better than such a wonderful piece of art to convey this message?” she said. “I wanted to translated it as if it were seen through the imaginary eyes of an African artist, who depicts his own Masai tribe.” The prints were mainly rendered in a black and white palette, gracing loose fitting silk tunics worn with matching trousers, or long coats opening to reveal shorts or minidresses. A brighter version of the motifs looked particularly appealing on a fluid shirtdress. Manirakiza was partnered with textile suppliers Maritex SRL to execute the collection.
Karim Daoudi was born in Morocco and now lives in Italy, where he works for a shoe company. He launched his own footwear label in 2017. He has since scooped up the Federmoda Roma award for young designers; in 2019 he was selected to participate in the Fashion Graduate final fashion show. He favors a sexy, feminine look. Inspired by the jungle and its colors, Daoudi presented high-heeled ankle booties with contrasting trimmings, knee-high intarsia-ed boots with stiletto heels, and laced-up evening sandals, all sporting bright colored details. Daoudi’s collection was made possible with the support of shoemaker Ballin.
Pape Macodou Fall, known as Mokudo, hails from a family of Senegalese diplomats. A multifaceted talent, he started as a cartoonist then switched to visual arts, working in the movie industry and occasionally DJ-ing. His works have been exhibited at Paris Art Fair, Rome Biennale, and Dak’art Biennale in Dakar. Through the Afro Fashion Association he fell in love with fashion and started his own label in 2017. His visuals are strongly influenced by his African heritage: “African musicians are a great source of inspiration for me—Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Fatoumata Diawara, just to name a few,” he said. “My work is deeply rooted in the Senegalese culture. I feel the responsibility to inspire young African generations to express their talent and to believe in themselves. Fashion is art, it’s a cultural message that can give joy and hope.” For the WAMI showcase, he upcycled old suits, jumpsuits, and slender coats, which were energized by his hand painted brushstrokes and given vibrancy through vivid abstract motifs; they are one-of-a-kind pieces, unique and special as wearable works of art.