Niger fashion designer aims to show a positive image of her country at Joburg Fashion Week

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Niger fashion designer Alia Bare took center stage at the Joburg Fashion Week with a collection that she hopes will spread a positive image of her troubled country, suffering from instability and economic sanctions that followed a military coup earlier this year.

Bare is one of several African designers that descended on Johannesburg, South Africa, this week for the Joburg Fashion Week, a key feature of Africa's fashion and entertainment calendar.

Bare, who has lived in Senegal and India, on Thursday showcased an elegant collection, which drew from her experiences living in different countries.

Speaking to The Associated Press at the event, Bare said Niger has long been associated with political strife by the rest of the world, an image that she says does not fully represent the beauty of her country.

“When people talk about Niger they always talk about conflict, they talk about poverty and death, they talk about negative things,” she said.

“I know most people associate fashion with superficiality. But I think that fashion, through culture, can help to send a good message outside, an image of the country that is positive."

Bare's collection, called DNA, is a blend of influences from around the world including symbols from Niger and graphic design by a South African graphic designer.

“It is a very important collection for me because it represents what I am in terms of my culture, my background. I'm from Niger and I'm from different ethnic groups, and I wanted to show that in this collection,” Bare said.

Precious Moloi-Motsepe, executive chairperson of Africa Fashion International, which hosts the fashion event, said Thursday evening that Joburg Fashion Week aims to create a platform for African creatives to flourish.

“We believe we provide a blank canvas for our creatives and designers to express their creativity,” said Moloi-Motsepe. “We believe that African stories are better told by people from Africa.”

Joburg Fashion Week runs until Saturday, with more African designers expected to showcase their work.

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