Many fashion industry experts have often labelled Africa as an epicentre for buzzing creative energy. True to the word we have seen vibrant colourful designs being exhibited across the globe with origins stemming from Africa.

In its latest bid to absorb and adopt such creativity and inspiration, global beer brand, Heineken® sought far and wide across East Africa for emerging creatives through a week long engaging boot camp that featured ten fashion finalists in which two were crowned overall winners. 

The winners Lulu Mutuli and Azra Walji and quite obviously Africa’s hottest emerging design talents were given the ultimate opportunity to design Heineken’s first-ever African fashion collection, unveiled on the catwalk at Lagos Fashion and Design Week.

According to the man behind all design and concept development for Heineken worldwide, Mark van Iterson – Heineken Global Design Director, Heineken® Africa Inspired Fashion (HAIF) initiative is the next chapter in Heineken’s ‘Open Design Explorations’, a global co- creation programme that connects emerging creatives and gives them a platform to showcase their talent.

“Our brand isnot just about the beer alone, as we are also invested in the full consumer experience. With the support of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, we have a platform to present this unique collection to the world,” he said.

The Collection itself is a fusion of the two designers’ concepts and is the first of many design apprenticeships that the brand will roll out across the world, going next to Asia.

It is also about creativity - which is what pushes the Heineken brand forward and keeps it alive.

There’s a lot creative energy buzzing in Africa. As a global brand, we are always willing to absorb and adopt such creativity and inspiration.

For instance, the winners, Mutulo and Walji will go on to benefit from a year-long programme of coaching from the designers, known for eye-catching print design and innovative corporate fashion. The designs will be produced at scale across Africa to be worn by Heineken ambassadors throughout Tanzania, East Africa and beyond.

Lulu Mutuli, 24, whose work gives traditional African apparel a futuristic edge, has worked in top fashion houses in New York including RHIE and OMONDI. She said, “My designs took inspiration from the role African fashion has played in the culture of my country. Combining this rich heritage with the progressive character of the Heineken brand was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I used the bold Heineken colour palette, but I added a grey tone and used technical orientated patterns for a modern twist. The asymmetric shapes you can see were a way of incorporating practical elements whilst creating striking and stylish silhouettes.”

Azra Walji, 27, is known for her feminine shapes and African inspired elegance, reflected in her winning designs with Heineken. She said, “I am so grateful to Heineken. Sharing my work at Lagos Fashion at Design Week is a career-defining opportunity. I really enjoyed playing with the bold red and green colours – they are so iconic to the brand but also synonymous with the vibrancy of Africa. My designs are inspired by traditional African apparel but with a twist – I love the modern femininity of the trousers and short dresses.”

Nurturing Budding  Talent is  Key

Njeri MBURU, Heineken East Africa Marketing Manager said, “Identifying and empowering talent remains a critical part of our global agenda. We are constantly seeking new co- creation opportunities, to connect with young emerging designers and give them a global stage to showcase their talent, so we are delighted that this initiative has put a spotlight on such talent.

Lagos Fashion and Design Week is growing hub for creativity and is helping to influence and define the global fashion landscape. We look forward to extending the programme to other key markets next year.

Overall the African Inspired Fashion Competition had 10 finalists from East Africa including budding talent from Tanzania Bijoux Trendy and Anissa Mpungwe.” she added.

Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2017 is a multiday fashion extravaganza at the Eko Atlantic, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, where global designers including Maki Oh (whose fans include Michelle Obama and Beyoncé) take centre stage to celebrate African fashion and culture.

The judges for Heineken’s Africa Inspired Fashion challenge in Nairobi which brought Mutuli and Walji to Lagos, included fashion powerhouse and founder of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week Omoyemi Akerele, top Nigerian fashion designer Gloria Wavunno and Tanzanian stylist Rio Paul.