Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 December 2022:
In 2020 Mayor Giuseppe Sala of Milan and Mayor of Freetown Aki-Sawyerr, co-founded the Mayors’ Dialogue – a city-led platform for Africa & Europe that aims to create opportunities and improve the lives of citizens, especially addressing the high levels of youth unemployment in many African cities that is a driver of irregular migration.
As Milan is a world leader in the fashion industry, they decided to centre their first city-to-city collaboration on fashion.
On Friday 16th December, after months of working together to identify opportunities for collaboration between the fashion design industries and creative communities in both cities, a significant milestone was achieved with the launch of the Freetown Fashion, Design and Creative Arts Network.
In partnership with and supported by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Labrum (a menswear fashion brand fusing British tailoring with West African design) the platform will be used to develop and channel opportunities for skills exchange between designers, broker networks and alliances amongst textile manufacturers, and more broadly support business development and investment in Freetown’s fashion industry.
The ultimate aim is to open the Milan market to Freetown fashion designers, thereby growing the industry and creating jobs.
Marta Foresti, ODI project lead and Foday Dumbuya, Labrum founder and creative director, came from London and Nonku Msomi from Durban City Council came from Durban to participate in the launch event and to engage with Freetown based creatives who have been working on the concept of the Freetown Fashion, Design and Creative Arts Network for several months.
Speaking about this exciting and promising initiative, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr said: “We were excited to listen to three Freetown creative makers share reflections about their experiences in London and Milan in July and September this year. It was also a pleasure to listen to a recorded message from Mayor Giuseppe Sala of Milan. (Photo below: Hardworking Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr).
“Another highlight was watching a very moving film produced by London based Sierra Leonean producer Julian Knox. “Freedom of Movement” embodies the concept of what the Freetown Fashion Design and Creative Arts Network and the broader Mayors Dialogue seek to achieve. An arts and crafts exhibition provided a stimulating background to a lovely evening in which fashion designers, makers, musicians, artists and film makers, Empower Africa and Innovation SL committed to working together with Freetown City Council to ensure that the Freetown Fashion, Design and Creative Arts Network is a success.”
The Freetown Fashion, Design and Creative Arts Network has the potential to spin-out dozens of new small fashion manufacturers – with export income forecast at over two million dollars and creating hundreds of highly-skilled, knowledge-based jobs in the capital.