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Awards shine a light on young black achievers

THE SOLA TEAM: (left to right) Whitney Iles, Andre Campbell , Emanuel Candengue & Richard Serunjogi

A FORMER musician turned clothes designer has been nominated for a prestigious award at this year’s Spirit of London Awards (SOLAs).

Nicolas Amfo, from Mitcham, south London was praised by the competition’s judges after creating a clothing label called ODF (One Diverse Fashion). The label was shortlisted in the Achievement Through Fashion category.

The Spirit of London Awards were created in 2009 by the Damilola Taylor Trust and are organised by the Spirit of London Foundation. They commemorate the life of 10 year old Damilola Taylor who was murdered on a Peckham estate in 2000. The awards are also aimed at celebrating young people who are doing positive things in their communities.

Amfo said of his accolade “To see that someone has acknowledged my work and what I have been doing is a beautiful thing. SOLA focuses on the young people. They are the future and I think that is very important. It means I can show my friends and the community that things can happen if you work hard.”

The 22-year-old designer started ODF in 2007 as a clothing brand that could merge contemporary fashion with the classic preppy look.


SUCCESS: Amfo outside Number 10

“I wanted to express my view on society and my take on things through fashion. One Diverse Fashion involves everyone but in different ways. There’s no colour or type, anyone can wear it,” he said.

The popular label will soon be launched on ASOS, the UK’s largest online fashion and beauty store. Amfo believes that his nomination will inspire many others to follow their dreams.

AWARENESS

“I really want to create awareness through positivity. Our motto is ‘Stand In to Stand Out’. We want to let people know they can be simple, be themselves and be effective, from the UK and worldwide. Dreams can only come true when you wake up.”

A special reception for SOLA nominees such as Amfo and organisers was held by Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street recently.

What makes the Spirit of London Awards unique is that they are run by a team of young people who are themselves high achievers. Richard Serunjogi, 19, from Croydon, south London, is one of four founding members of the SOLA Foundation which organises the awards. The other three founders are Emmanuel Candengue, Whitney Iles and Andre Campbell, all 22.

“The SOLAs stand for empowering and inspiring young people” said Serunjogi, a former youth MP for Croydon.

“The Foundation was brought together for two ideas. Firstly to make it more than an award show on the night and secondly to be run by young people. Being a young person who is keen to make a difference I used to think there was only a few people trying to change things. But through the SOLAs and the Foundation, I realised there are a lot of people who think just like me, who have similar aspirations and backgrounds and want to change the world.”

He added “I want all young people to be able to look at us and know there are people out there who are doing fantastic things. They don’t have to look at people like David Beckham on TV because there are people on their road doing fantastic things and making a difference in the community.”

This year’s SOLAs will be held at The Royal Albert Hall on October 10, with performances from artistes including Tinchy Stryder and Dionne Bromfield.

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