Unveiling Africa’s beauty secrets

Saturday November 30 2019

Swahili Fashion Week

This year’s edition of the Swahili Fashion Week features two new categories namely Designer of the Year and East African Designer of the Year. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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The 12th edition of Swahili Fashion Week kicks off in Dar es Salaam with a promise of glitz and glamour to haute couture enthusiasts in the region.

Dubbed What Makes Africa Beautiful, the event takes place at the Serena Hotel from December 6 – 8.

The contest features more than 30 designers, 26 of whom are local. It focusses on people who epitomise the best of East Africa’s fashion industry, with products that have a strong global appeal.

Italy’s ambassador to Tanzania hosts the event.

Young budding designers can compete for the Washington Benbella Emerging Designers Competition Award 2019 (WBEDC).

It was created in honour of Washington Benbella (1989-2016) who worked with the communication agency 361 Degrees Africa for more than five years as a fashion co-ordinator.


Benbella was passionate about his work and managed the Swahili Fashion Week, a brainchild of 361 Degrees Africa.

Young emerging designers use Swahili Fashion Week as a stepping stone for achieving their dreams.

This year’s theme for WBEDC is Vazi la Taifa kwa Mtazamo wa Vijana (National Dress from Youth Perspective).

Some eight finalists will come up with ideas for a national dress for Tanzania. The winner will be selected at the gala event.

This year’s event also features two new categories namely Designer of the Year and East African Designer of the Year.

The Swahili Bazaar at the event captures the spirit, style and essence of the East African coast.

Here, fashion enthusiasts can buy accessories, exhibit and sell their designs, often hand-made clothing.

The bazaar also promotes the culture of Kiswahili-speaking countries while creating opportunities for East African products in the African diaspora markets and beyond in beauty and adornments including henna, udi and perfume, as well as in beading, arts and crafts, music, furniture, textile and weaving.

Founded in 2008 to promote fashion made in Africa, the Swahili Fashion Week is the most comprehensive of its kind on this part of the continent, enabling fashion and accessory designers from Kiswahili-speaking countries and beyond to display their talent.

The founder of Swahili Fashion Week and managing director of 361 Degrees Africa Mustaffa Hassanali hopes to build on this foundation to unearth and promote the African culture and not just to dress people.

“Not only will we showcase to the world the depth of design talent in Africa, but we will also promote the platform globally,” he said.

Hassanali said that for the first time ever, this year’s event will also feature a workshop by Italian designer Marta Zampolini who will discuss ways to venture into the global market.

“The aim is to reach out to the public, and highlight and stimulate talent within the fashion industry and beyond; there is an African proverb that says, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together’,” he said.

Hassanali added that creating opportunities for East African products in African diaspora markets remains a forefront goal, and customers in Africa and diaspora will realise that there is an alternative to the imported brands.

The 12th edition of the Swahili Fashion Week is sponsored by Italy’s Embassy in Tanzania, French Vodka brand Grey Goose, local events and decor firm Hugo Domingo, screen printing firm Image Masters; Asilas make up and Green Telecom among other companies.