NAMIBIAN designers Leah Misika and Lourens ‘The Vintage Guru’ Gebhardt recently made continental waves when they were named the best male and female designers of the year in Africa at the Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival 2014.
The festival, which was held in Accra, Ghana, on 23 and 24 May, saw designers from countries like Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ghana and Namibia showcasing their individual works of art on the runway.
“The organisers brought designers from all over Africa to all show their work and share among each other and that was a good for unity among African designers,” Gebhardt said.
The Namibian designers emerged as the crème de la crème of the group of designers as they wowed the audience, which included high profile delegates from all over Africa, with their impressive work.
Gebhardt told The Namibian that the recognition took him by surprise as he had no idea that he was in the running for Best Male Designer.
He said that he was really happy for both him and Misika to have done so well and excelled at the festival.
Fellow Namibian designer Misika said it feels good being rewarded, especially because it is her first full collection. Both agreed that although they are not sure what the exact criteria were, they won because of their unique work.
“I think our work came out as more powerful, especially my vintage-western work. The other designers came with African print and people there are used to African print. The models just wanted to wear our clothes,” Gebhardt said.
“My collection was different from the rest and it was ready to wear,” Misika said on what set her apart from the rest of the designers.
Event organiser Gideon Raji of Global Ovation said that Gebhardt and Misika’s work stood out from the rest because of their uniqueness and professionalism.
“His (Gebhardt’s) designs are outstanding and unique. Lourens has colourful stuff that is always attractive and he was competing against other top designers, but his work just stood out.
“As for Leah, her things are perfect. Her cuts are professional and her designs are professional,” Raji said.
Misika added that it was nice to see what other designers do in other countries. She also said that she realised that Namibia is in a position to also host a fashion festival.
“We have better venues and better infrastructure so it is definitely something we can do ourselves,” she said.
Both designers said that the festival was a learning experience and that they gained knowledge that they can plough back into the Namibian fashion industry.
Other awards included the Fashion Icon, Brand Ambassador and Couture Designer awards. Raji told The Namibian that next year’s winners will walk away with a brand new Mercedes Benz each.