BLANTYRE, Malawi — Models on the runway in Malawi sported dresses with bottle-tops and wore hats made of chicken feathers as the southern African country hosted its first-ever Fashion Week.
More than a dozen designers took part in the event showcasing chic but affordable clothing in Malawi, a conservative country where, until 1994, women were banned from wearing pants and miniskirts.
The goal is to progress the fashion industry that is booming in Africa, said Dawa Loga-Lemberger, CEO of Elegant Resources, a company that helped stage the event earlier this month.
Malawi ranks among Africa's poorest countries, though local designers were keen to show it doesn't take expensive fabrics or highly-paid models to host a Fashion Week.
Designer Eva Gertrude Kapanda said she mostly made her clothes, earrings and shoes with locally available materials.
I usually design about Africa, she said. For example, I use chitenje (traditional printed cloth) which is cheap. I use plastics when I make earrings. I also use chicken feathers for the earrings. I make stuff from everything wood, even bottle tops.
Patricia Ntambalika, a Malawian designer based in Windhoek, Namibia, says fashion has a future in Malawi as attitudes toward clothing have changed.
Malawian women never used to wear trousers or mini-skirts, but nowadays people are free and they can wear whatever they want as long as it looks fashionable on them, she said.
Grace Khondi, who attended Malawi Fashion Week, said the designers had a lot to offer.
I'm impressed with what I saw, she said. We have lots of talent in Malawi.