• Lyla Bhalla-Ladd

Alger Fashion Week Marks its Ten Year Anniversary

After my PFW adventures in October, I was eager to continue my involvement in the Paris fashion industry. I discovered Alger Fashion Week through a bit of research and offered to cover the show for my university’s student publication Dépaysants. Nawel Nedjari, who has organized Alger Fashion Week for the past ten years, invited me to the Normandy Hotel a couple of weeks before the show to debrief on the venue and introduce me to her team. The show was a clear expression of not only the influence of Alger fashion in Paris but also the assertion of Algeria onto the global fashion stage.

Although the name suggests otherwise, Alger Fashion Week is held here in Paris. Nawel tells me that this is because the Minister of Culture of Algeria does not consider or approve of the fashion shows which the local designers prepare so diligently for. Paris, however, as a fashion capital, is a much more strategic location to launch Algeria into the big leagues of fashion. Nawel’s goal is to elevate Alger Fashion Week to the level of Paris, Milan, and London one day. To her, the “tradition” of Algerian fashion deserves its unique place among the European fashion giants.

This year, Nawel featured four Algerian designers: Biba Couture, Nawel Chibah, Cherazed Mankouri, and Sali Yosscreation. The traditional styles from the collections truly spoke to this sentiment of the legacy of ethnic dress, and reminded me how lacking this history is in European collections that do have a more prominent global presence. Still, Nawel vets her designers carefully. She tells me that the designers must be “modern” to be present in her show. The liminality between traditional and modern themes across the shows expressed how Algerian fashion is changing to appeal to modern women, and still reworking classic silhouettes, fabrics, and garments.

She’s not far behind in making her goal a reality, as Alger Fashion Week gains more French media coverage every year. As this December was the show’s ten-year anniversary, Nawel commented on how AFW has evolved, saying: “[In] 10 years we built something strong with a fabulous team of photographers and models… We had the Vogue Arabia interview, the French TV5 channel interview, and Gazelle Magazine, the first Arabic magazine in France.”

Nawel describes her team as “a family.” This family has created an incredibly well-run and beautiful show each year, and has managed to maintain the authentic, cultural feel of the event by including musical performances, speeches, and presentations from the designers, who present their collections themselves to the lively audience.

In the age of resurfacing trends of over-decadence, “camp”, and aesthetic excess in fashion, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian fashion will indeed be an undeniable foundation for modern expressions of such grandeur. Algerian fashion is one step ahead in its emergence to the fashion stage and perhaps the success of AFW in Paris, spearheaded by Nawel Nedjari, will prove to be what sets it apart from being merely an influence in Paris and the emerging African fashion capital.

Photos courtesy of Laurent Thouvenin