- Title: IVORY COAST: Ivorian designer launches unusual fashion line made of raffia
- Date: 4th June 2010
- Summary: ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (JUNE 2, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE DANCING ON MOVING TRUCK/WOMEN WEARING RAFFIA WIGS, OUTFITS AND NECKLACES/MAN WEARING HAT AND OUTFIT WITH RAFFIA STRANDS
- Embargoed: 19th June 2010 13:00
- Topics: Fashion,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA1IC92NTTNOA85YJNBCRJHN9EF
- Story Text: Ivorian designer Genevieve Koukougnon recently brought the streets of Abidjan to a stand-still with a unique fashion show that featured clothes and accessories made out of raffia.
Models used the streets as their catwalk with some posing on top of trucks sporting dresses and wigs, while carrying bags made out of the fibre.
Passers-by looked on in amazement as vehicles adorned with raffia strands drove by.
Raffia is a fiber derived from the leaves of a palm tree native to Africa, central and southern America.
Koukougnon uses raffia strands to make shirts, dresses, loincloths, belts, shoes, and wigs for women.
"I did this fashion show to pay tribute to women, and to bring something new to the Ivorian world and the world of fashion. I would like to show that you can wear wigs made out of raffia, and also have synthetic hair made out of raffia. You can go anywhere with them just like with synthetic wigs, said the designer in an interview with Reuters.
Koukougnon sources the raffia from villages in western Ivor Coast and takes them to her workshop, where she colours them with natural dyes before bringing her creations to life.
The fashion show parade also featured young men and women dancing to local music on a float decorated with raffia strands.
Koukougnon said she wants to showcase her culture by using raffia to design her clothes.
"I said to myself: we always use synthetic hair for braiding, while we have our own raw materials that we can use to make wigs, weaves and necklaces. I wanted to rise up to the challenge for this fashion show and show that we can go to the bush, get some raffia strands and have our hair done with them," she said.
Many welcomed the parade and the use of the fibre -- native to their country.
"It's great. This synthetic hair is made of natural produce. I think we are done now with what white people imposed on us. Today, we are promoting our culture," said one Abidjan citizen, Desire Memel.
Koukougnon's fashion parade was held near the markets of Abidjan, where there were also presentations of hair being plaited with raffia locks.
Koukougnon chose to hold workshops here because many women come to the market to have their hair done at cheaper prices, compared to other hair salons which are more costly.
In Ivory Coast, just like in many parts of Africa, women use synthetic locks to braid their hair.
But raffia locks may gain popularity in the hair extension industry given it's low cost.
An ordinary synthetic hair bundle costs 1000 CFA francs (1.87 U.S. dollars) whereas raffia locks cost 500 CFA francs (0.94 U.S. dollars).
"If I had not had my hair done yet, I would have put raffia in my hair. Life is so short that when you find something that you like, you should just enjoy it," said she fifty four year-old Emilia Mensa.
Koukougnon spent 15 years in France, before returning to her country in 1986 and started a flourishing rice business.
But a civil war, which erupted in 2002 -- dividing the country in two -- ruined her business and she decided to branch out into fashion.
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