South African Thula Sindi’s afro-infused sophisticated and feminine lines have become a firm favourite with retail buyers, celebrities and fashionistas alike. His garments adorn boutique rails across the continent and red carpets from Hollywood to Lagos, making him one of the biggest rising stars on the African fashion scene today. Though Sindi has achieved veteran success, he recently celebrated a fashion first: Sindi was one of 60 designers to grace the runway this weekend at Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL). AFWL, held from August 1 to 3 this year, was launched in 2011 as a way to expose both emerging and established African designers to the U.K. market. In this exclusive collection of diary entries, he shares his experience as a rookie at the vibrant event:

Thula on the Runway at the African fashion week london

Thula on the Runway at the African fashion week in london

Thula and Conrad posing for a picture at the Africa fashion week in London
AFWL is now its third year, and I was excited to get the opportunity to create more visibility for my brand and to especially show my unique selling points. On arriving my hosts Bongi Nethononda and Conrad Mwanza of CMG Media made sure that I got to see London in all its glory. They were also the ones responsible for bringing me to London to show at Africa Fashion Week London. Having already begun to retail in the U.K. via the London based e-tail site, showing at this event proved a good way to introduce me formally to the U.K. market. As it attracts mostly designers & patrons from West Africa, I was looking forward to having a major demographic on the African continent see my work.

My day began with a fitting at the AFWL venues where I was able to review the models and make sure all the elements of the clothes would be showcased perfectly as they went down the catwalk.

That same evening a London-based style website, coincidentally named ‘Thula‘ hosted a reception for me at Apartment 58 a swanky venue on Old Oxford. I was afforded the opportunity to present some of my garments as a teaser for the next day’s show and spoke about my aesthetic to a select group of London fashion influencers.

Thula posing with a model at the African fashion week London

At my reception I was able to present some of my garments and speak about my aesthetic to the select guests.
Photo credit: Thula Sindi

Thula posing with Bongi at the Africa fashion week London

Bongi Nethononda of CMG Media and I.
Photo credit: Thula Sindi

Thula posing with models at the African fashion week in London
Show day began with a visit to the SA High Commission, and then last minute arrangements at the show venue.

My Africa Fashion Week London debut was held at Old Truman Brewery on trendy Brick Lane, a vibrant area. Being the closing show of the day was a big success for me. Also, the show was filled with so many people curious about Africa and the promise of ‘the new’ (or at least the undiscovered) [talent] that fashion from the continent presents.

Thula show begins with models lining up for the runway at the African fashion week in London

Models line-up to walk onto runway.
Photo credit: Thula Sindi

thula model showcase his designs at the African fashion week in London

My designs at Africa Fashion Week London
Photo Credit: Jerrard Lockett

Having my show go well was a huge win, but the absolute highlight of my night was making a new customer out of former beauty queen, Ghanaian businesswoman and philanthropist, Menaye Donkor. She arrived at the show dressed in my corset and skirt combo in polka dot denim with beaded lace insets.

Thula posing with Obama's wax statue in Madame Tussauds
Still high from a successful show, I spent Saturday sight-seeing including a fun visit to Madame Tussauds.

I also attended the Holi Festival of Colour at Battersea Power Station with friends based in London. It was tons of fun and the best way to re-energise. Later that evening, my garments closed the show during the AFWL gala dinner, which was held at The Dorchester hotel – a big coup for me!

thula design showcase by a model at the African fashion week London

A model walks the ramp in one of my designs
Photo Credit: Jerrard Lockett

Thula admiring his Designs at the African fashion week in London
I wouldn’t be a designer if didn’t spend time exploring London’s fashion scene, which I did today. I also had to make a turn at the V & A Costume Museum.

This was a great way to soak in fashion inspiration both old and new. The David Bowie exhibition was my favourite, very impactful and educational.

Finally it was time to say a sad goodbye to London. All the events and introductions have been priceless for my brand and were great ways of introducing me to local media, buyers, bloggers and potential clients.

And if the sheer quantity and quality of enquiries that I have subsequently received are anything to go, this trip has been a resounding success.

UPDATE: Watch Thula Sindi’s Show at Africa Fashion Week London

Africa Fashion Week London 2013 – Thula Sindi Collection by from Christian ALT on Vimeo.

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