Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fashion line shows African fashion as versatile, luxurious and elegant

With a little help, dreams can come true. For designer Breanna Moore, a successful Kickstarter campaign provided the necessary and invaluable resources to help launch her fashion business idea into reality. The LaBré fashion line has grown into LaBré Bazaar, an e-commerce platform which provides African and diasporic artisans with increased access and exposure to the international market, alongside her Fashion Made in Africa Initiative. One of the Initiative’s pillars is to generate global visibility of African-inspired fashion designers and harness the fashion industry to create economic opportunities for young and talented African designers.

The young designer has used the LaBré fashion collection to educate the public on the history of “African prints” with “The Threads of Africa” on display currently at the Art Sanctuary. The exhibit explores “threads” or fabrics that are traditional to the continent and the origin of those that have been imported and adapted into West and Central African culture. Before the 1960s every fabric sold in West and Central Africa was manufactured in Europe. According to Moore, the African print market is overwhelmingly void of African ownership. LaBré aims to complicate the narrative surrounding what is known as African prints.

“The descriptions on the walls discuss literally the ‘Thread of Africa’ and goes over the history of a lot of the fabric [being manufactured] by the Chinese, British and Dutch,” said Moore. “It is imported and hardly owned by Africans themselves in Africa. I thought that was a point to bring up so people could know how to best contribute to the economy when they do buy the fabrics.”

Through the LaBré Threads of Africa Gown Spring 2017 Collection, Moore wants to ensure that young women who can’t afford a prom dress have the opportunity to enjoy their high school proms without having to pay hundreds of dollars on a beautiful gown. For every seven gowns sold, LaBré will donate a free dress to an in-need Philadelphia high school student who cannot afford a prom dress.

The giveaway has roots in the tough times of the designer’s own high school years.

“I just look back to my experience. My senior year of high school was during the end of the recession,” recalled Moore. “Both of my parents were unemployed at the time and we really couldn’t afford a dress. I was able to do so by working a side job at the time, after school and weekends. That definitely helped me to provide this for the high school seniors because I know how hard it is when you can’t really afford a dress. And also, it would be a great cultural [merger] to help have confidence in your culture and where you come from when you have a dress made of African fabric, especially young ladies from the Continent who might be from a country that may particularly trying to be banned by Trump’s immigration policy.

“This will help them feel comfortable and beautiful in their country or native land’s choice of fabric, textiles, et cetera. I can see that African and African-inspired gowns are really becoming popular. There have been a few cases highlighted where girls have gowns made out of African fabric. I wanted to shine more light on that and let people see that African fashion is versatile, luxurious and elegant — just as European-style fashion,” Moore said.

Moore says she is also offering sponsorship opportunities for people who want to provide these unique gowns to needy high schoolers.

The LaBré “Threads of Africa” Gown Spring 2017 Collection exhibit is at the Art Sanctuary gallery, 628 S. 16th St., until Saturday. The deadline to apply for the LaBré Prom Dress Giveaway is April 30. for more information, visit shoplabre.com.

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