Swahili Fashion Week 2023: A Fusion of Style and Sustainability in Tanzania

Interveiw conducted by Daniel Kijo, CGTN, Dar es Salaam.

Over the weekend, Tanzania hosted East Africa’s premier fashion extravaganza, the Swahili Fashion Week, where style met a more profound purpose — promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness. Held in the bustling Tanzanian commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, the annual event served as a vibrant platform for fashion and accessory designers from Swahili-speaking countries and beyond.

The 3-day spectacle showcased the creativity of 36 designers from across Africa, both established names and emerging talents, aiming to capture the attention of fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Jael Naliaka, a Kenyan designer, expressed her excitement, describing the experience as a dream come true. She noted the success stories of those who had participated in previous events, highlighting the significant opportunities for designers associated with the Swahili Fashion Week.

This year’s theme embraced the concept of “Made in Africa,” emphasizing the potential of fashion as a lucrative and culturally rich creative industry. Organizers were keen on promoting sustainable practices, aligning the event with global efforts to address climate change. The theme was inspired by bamboo, a versatile and eco-friendly material, to raise awareness about climate change, coinciding with the COP 28 global climate change summit.

Mustafa Hassanali, the visionary founder of the Swahili Fashion Week, is leading the charge towards sustainable fashion. He stressed the importance of reducing the fashion industry’s environmental impact, acknowledging it as one of the significant contributors to pollution. Hassanali advocated for recycling, reusing, and upcycling in the fashion world, emphasizing the need for the industry to take responsibility for its ecological footprint.

Beyond environmental concerns, Hassanali highlighted the challenges faced by African designers on the business front. He emphasized the need for financial literacy, training, and guidance for designers, urging them to explore avenues like e-commerce and digital platforms to make their creations more accessible.

The climax of the event was marked by awards recognizing outstanding designers, a gesture aimed at inspiring others to consider both profitability and environmental impact in their creative endeavors. The Swahili Fashion Week has proven its resilience and relevance over the years, adapting to contemporary issues and fostering a community that values creativity, sustainability, and entrepreneurship.

As the curtains fell on this year’s edition, the Swahili Fashion Week left a lasting impression — not just on the runways but in the hearts and minds of those who see fashion as a powerful force for positive change. The event serves as a testament to the potential of the fashion industry to evolve, embrace sustainability, and contribute to a better, more conscientious future.