On the fifth of March a resounding beat of drums and an explosion of colour were brought to the Old Course Hotel: Réfèt Afrique, University of St Andrews’ African-inspired charity fashion show had arrived. I met the Director Marie Louise Kehn Jensen to talk about the success of the third year of the show.
IL: What attracted you to directing the show?
MLKJ: Last year I was involved as a model and became interested in the organisation of the show. From my experience last year, I wanted to take Réfèt Afrique to another level, by making it more of a society rather than just a fashion show.
IL: How did you achieve this?
MLKJ: I wanted to raise awareness about Africa in other ways. This culminated in Africa Week last November, with a series of events including student photo exhibitions, film screenings, a charity debate night and the popular Disco Afrique.
I also restructured the committee in order to make it less exclusive and provide an opportunity for more people interested in art, culture and fashion to express their passion.
IL: What was the concept of the show this year?
MLKJ: This year’s show had the theme ‘Rural vs. Cosmopolitan’ which enabled us to contrast various interpretations of African culture. The show also benefited from a powerful creative freedom: the committee envisioned the experimental turban collection, and the models presented quirky outfits in the self-style collection.
We decided to make the show more personal, for example by making a floor-based catwalk in order to create a more intimate atmosphere.
IL: Tell me more about the people you worked with.
MLKJ: We worked with dedicated people throughout the year and on the night, I’m proud to be part of such a great committee. The host Jasper who entertained and explained the collections, the vibrant student performances, amazing designers (both students and professionals from across the country) and talented models all contributed to the overall success of the evening. We were lucky enough to collaborate with Adamson Salon, who created dramatic looks that suited the concept. I want to thank Kayhan, the student photographers and directors for their help in the build up to the show and on the night. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors, who helped make the show happen. This year’s show profits will be donated to two charities, namely the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (a member of the Make Poverty History Coalition) and the SCHEF Organisation.
IL: What are the society’s goals for next year?
MLKJ: The immediate change will concern the events from Africa Week. Instead of being gathered in one week, they will be spread throughout the whole year. I think this will allow the audience more time to celebrate the beauty of the heart-shaped continent. With the excellent foundation built upon this year, I am positive that the society will continue to fulfil its aspirations and bring Africa to St Andrews once again.
Photography by Tam McTavish and Igor Slepov