Xenson, the first Ugandan designer to be showcased on MNET's Studio 53, a SouthAfrican lifestyle show that is beamed to all of Africa, put on a show that wowed the audience.
The hall was packed and the line of cars stretched from the Kampala Serena Hotel gates to the subway roundabout. It took drivers 15-20 minutes to enter the hotel and all were going to the show, which in itself was a big surprise.
Even the invitation card to Xenson' show - two stitched pieces of card with his label, was original.
Samson Ssenkaaba a.k.a Xenson is a painter, fashion designer and master pattern maker, and pioneer of the Hip-Hop Lugaflow genre that is at last giving Ugandan music some definition.
He has traveled the world showcasing his talents in France, Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, Mauritius, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, China and Japan.
XENSON was presented by REDD's, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and D-Mark Mobile to bring his newest Eco-friendly fashion collection in the heart of Kampala.
The show concept, designed to tie in all the elements that make Xenson took over one year of planning.
It had a creative support cast in the name of Latif and Stella Atal, as well as 50 creative people who each did their best to outdo the other in terms of getting the audience's attention.
Latif made eight dresses in 21 minutes, cutting the patterns right on stage, handing the dresses over to the models over his shoulder without even looking at them and dressing them all on stage as they went to line up in the back while waiting for him to finish before filing out one by one to display the dresses. As they were dressing, falling green wrappers and quick flashes of bare flesh kept the audience sheepishly giggling and entertained.
For the speed at which he made the dresses, they turned out surprisingly good as the kind of fabrics he was working with, Lycra, velvet and the likes, tend to ruche into gathers if not sown carefully. His were just skin-tight dynamite, especially a spectacularly slinky red velvet number that I mentally booked and put in my closet and another that had the model wondering if her bits were showing as she slinked down the catwalk. The men in the audience were definitely very happy.
Stella Atal was a crowd favorite, especially for the artistic ladies with her mix-media take on African Fashion. I like her choice in materials, a lot of traditional bark-cloth mixed with some chiffon headdresses as well as the usual calabash gourds. The ideas were great- but Stella has yet to make the full cross-over from Art fashion to Street Fashion as her street fashion clothes still tend to have a bit of a 'mummy' feel, which is not bad, but even mummy's want to feel like they are hot occasionally.
As for Xenson, the low point for some people was they there was not a clear journey between the past, present, and future, especially with the use of wood.
Sylvia Owori's sister complained about the amount of side distractions on the show like the comedians and curtain raisers took too long. The show ended at around midnight but by then half the audience had left even before Xenson's segment ended. Some people did not understand some of the material uses and thought the un-ended 'mukeeka' matting was a distraction for them. However that is part of the design, allowing the mat to fray and contrast with the rigid tailoring.
Model and city socialite Judith Heard modeled for Stella Atal, and the makeup as well as the off kilter show, made for the fact that very few people recognised her as this is not the kind of shows she traditionally works with. She however said she enjoyed the experience so much and raved about Xenson's work : "As a participant I found it very interesting. Xenson is a very creative designer, I am so crazy about his bags. It is the first time I am seeing them but I think they are good for hand-luggage. I didn't get to work with him, I worked with Stella Atal; he had kept a dress for me but I was so tired. But I really want to work with him next time."
As one of the hottest designers in this country Sylvia Owori herself gave the show the double thumbs up.
"I think the show today was fantastic! There was a lot of creativity and 'Africaness'," she said.
She said she was looking forward to seeing more from Xenson because a lot of the collection he showed she had already seen.
"I would have said I am a little disappointed but I know how hard it is to put together a show," she said. "All in all it's fantastic; it's good for the fashion industry in Uganda. We need to have a lot more shows and there were a lot of people who came today which was very nice and good for the future of Uganda."
Anne Musisi, another big designer in the country, says the highlight of the show was the men's designs: "The man can cut for men! Seriously! Very good construction (referring to the pattern cutting and the construction of the clothes); I think though that Stella outshone him in the mixed media".
Santa Anzo of Arapapa was more gushing of her praise of Xenson: "WOW- I think it was mind-blowing. A lot of hardwork went in there and I think we should have paid more actually. All the 3 fashion designers did a wonderful show and the highlight was the threesome (the 3 bark cloth Xenson design)- that one did it for me."
Tagged: Arts, East Africa, Uganda