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Wilmington fashion show celebrates West African diaspora

Wilmington fashion show celebrates West African diaspora

The Queen was aswirl with brilliant greens, vibrant blues and nearly neon yellows Saturday night.

The models and the guests of the third annual Monrovia USA Fashion show, which celebrates the culture of the African country Liberia, showed up and showed out in traditional West African dresses, skirts, shirts and suits. 

The show is the brainchild of retired Marine Kofa Freeman of Wilmington

“We have so many beautiful arts and we know we have it but we never showcase them,” he said.

Two years ago, Freeman decided to bring his past and present together a fashion show weekend celebrating his country of birth, Liberia. It’s based on a similar event in Monrovia, Liberia

Liberian designers who now live in California, Philadelphia and Delaware showcased their creations in the show that drew more than 300 people.

Many of the West African designs featured thick cloth with repeating patterns that goes by many names including Ankara or Kente. Besides being used for clothes, leftover cloth is often used as a headwrap by women, as seen on the heads of Saturday’s models and guests.

The rhythms of West Africa, particularly Monrovia, Liberia, were in the Afropop beats of Davido, Tiwa Savage, Tekno and others playing from the DJ’s corner. 

Freeman hopes that event, which has grown from just a few guests three years ago to triple digits this year, not only showcases the culture and fashion of his home country but brings together Liberians living in the U.S.

He also would like for it to serve as a springboard for designers and as a teaching tool for African Americans who may want to know more about where their ancestors came from. 

Monrovia to USA 

Freeman moved from Liberia to New Jersey in 2004. He joined the Marines, which moved him to Delaware in 2007. He retired in 2016 after he was injured. 

He said had wanted to have an event to pay homage to his home country and bring Liberians together. He connected with the developers of the Monrovian show and launched Monrovia USA Fashion Show in 2017.

Their main event is the annual fashion show, but the weekend includes an opening night party and a third day that features shopping and an industry panel. 

Freeman finances the entire event himself. 

“People think I’m crazy for saving money and investing in the show every year, but I see something that no one else sees,” he said. 

This year his team included about 20 people from all over the country who helped coordinate, design and put on the show. There were nine designers and around 30 models. Most of the models and designers are Liberian themselves or they have connections to people from the country

Pennsylvania resident Famatta Kiamue says she’s thrilled such an event exists for that exact reason. 

“With everything else we’re going through in the country, it’s a form of trying to unify us,” said the Liberian native. 

She is particularly proud that her 26-year-old daughter, model Wokie Zaria Kiamue, served as the face of this year‘s event. 

The family moved to the Caribbean from Liberia and then to Philadelphia when Wokie Zaria was six years old.

The fashion show allows Famatta and her husband to see their daughter because Wokie Zaria now lives in Los Angeles. 

An event to elevate

The audience — some who traveled from California, Florida and New York — had an opportunity to not only be around other Liberians but also see native fashions showcased.

Nine designers showcased dresses, pants, pantsuits, bathing suits and more throughout the event, totaling over 100 outfits. 

The nine brands showcased included: 

Ehtyl B
Everything Rrouge
Ernest Collections
F.Dohr
J. Wonyen 
MYB Clothing 
Comfort Couture
Modish 
Angie H Couture

Makeup artist Phyllis Davis of New Jersey but she has worked closely with Liberians in the past so she was very excited to put on the show

“Right now Liberia is not really known in the fashion market,” she said. 

She hopes the show helps to put some of the designers on the fashion map. 

Contact Marina Affo at maffo@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter at @marina_affo.