Ethical Fashion “Beat of Africa” show at AltaRoma. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio


Above: Stella Jean wows Rome again.


Dear Shaded Viewers,

The collaboration between AltaRoma and the Ethical Fashion Initiative continued in Rome last month, bringing an African presence to Rome at “The Beat of Africa” group show. The project has been carried out with the support of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative links the world’s top fashion talents to marginalised artisans – the majority of them women – in East and West Africa, Haiti and the West Bank.

The Initiative enables fashion’s rising new generation of talent to forge environmentally sound, sustainable and fulfilling creative collaborations with artisans from poor nations such as Burkina Faso, Haiti, Kenya, Mali and the West Bank. Under its slogan, “NOT CHARITY, JUST WORK” the program advocates a fairer global fashion industry.

The Initiative’s success is built on its business model and physical infrastructure of design centres connected to central hubs in Nairobi, Accra, Ouagadougou, Port au Prince and Ramallah. Active since 2009, the Initiative has enabled artisans living in urban and rural poverty to connect with the global fashion chain. Creative long-term collaborations allow those living in extreme poverty to change their lives. The Initiative enables luxury brands to develop and produce high quality, covetable and ethical fashion items that are delivered on time.

Long-term partnerships around the world include Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Isetan, Carmina Campus, sass & bide, Stella Jean, Osklen, Chan Luu, United Arrows, Myer, and Manor.


Lisa Folawiyo

Lisa Folawiyo’s trademark is working embellishment into traditional West African fabrics for a modern twist. While I admired the effort, I felt that with a lot of the pieces the designer should have taken a step back and employed the Less is More ethos by removing one or two of the embellishing elements, such as a vestigial flounce or a fourth print. “Elegance is refusual” as Mrs. Vreeland used to say.





Duaba Serwa

Duabe Serwa is designed by Nelly Aboagye. “Our story is about bold, effortless beauty,” says the designer. “We pride ourselves in the construction of luxurious style lines that cater to the woman who prefers understatements to flamboyant extravagance.” I was over the moon for the superb tailoring and aslo the gorgeous prints that were incoporated into the collection.






Stella Jean

Stella Jean hit it out of the park yet again with an outstanding collection that displayed her print-choosing brilliance, masterful styling and razor-sharp tailoring. Stella Jean first gained notoriety by winning Who Is On Next in 2011 and has received glowing praise from Giorgio Armani, who invited her to show her S/S 2014 collection at his Armani/Teatro in Milan.

Jean has proven her commitment to women’s economic empowerment in developing countries by incorporating fabrics hand-woven in Burkina Faso, accessories made with hand-dyed fabrics from Mali with value-added prodcution in Kenya, and jewelry crafted in Haiti. Viva Stella Jean!










Glenn Belverio

Glenn Belverio

Glenn Belverio is a writer and New Yorker. He has been reporting for ASVOF since 2005 and currently works at The Museum of Modern Art as the Content Manager for MoMA Design Store.