CAMEROON X UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA | KIBONEN NEW YORK X MAKORY MGECE

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange

THE EXCHANGE

The gown designed by Kibonen is made from lightweight Woolmark certified wool, trimmed with Maasai beading from Mgece Makory in Tanzania. Intricate embroidery features on the patterned Toghu cloth, traditionally worn by rulers of the North West region of Cameroon.

KIBONEN NEW YORK

Bringing traditional African fabrics to New York’s vibrant fashion scene was a lightbulb moment for Cameroonian designer Kibonen Nfi. A fusion of cultures, New York turned out to be just the springboard Kibonen needed for her quirky designs, which take inspiration from tribal regalia worn by the Bamileke and Bamenda Regions of Cameroon. A degree in fashion and an internship at Donna Karan equipped Kibonen to return to Douala and refine her aesthetic; mixing tribal and global trends by reinventing the ‘Toghu’, a colourful fabric, most commonly black, gold and orange, that is finely embroidered and previously reserved for royalty. Since her earliest collections, Kibonen has been a poster girl for Africa’s burgeoning fashion scene, selected as one of the 12 designers by the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative. She was also chosen to be included in Vogue Talents 2015 Fashion Designers, showcased in Vogue Italia.

MAKORY MGECE

Using materials like khanga, batik and kitenge, Mgece created her own fashion label, working alongside local artisans that celebrate Tanzanian culture.

But it is the intricate Maasai beadwork that most captures the collective imagination, and Mgece uses it often to create modern interpretations of the traditional Tanzanian craft. Beaded pieces accompany the lifecycle of each member of the tribe, indicating age, social and marital status. Red represents the Maasai’s relationship with cattle, their primary source of sustenance; blue is for energy and the sky; green is the land and health; orange and yellow symbolise hospitality; white refers to purity, and black represents the Maasai people. All the jewellery is created by the women of the Maasai tribe, who consider it their duty to continue their tradition.

Mgece says,“My mother gave me courage to never be afraid of doing what is on my mind, which would shape me as an independent personality.”

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