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Top African fashion designers raise awareness of Alzheimer's

FASHION CONSCIENCE: One of the gélé designs unveiled at last week’s show

THERE ARE many African Caribbeans who feel uncomfortable talking about dementia.

However, recent statistics show that it is an issue that needs to be tackled.

According to the charity, the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently 12,000 people with dementia from black and minority ethnic communities in the UK. It is estimated that this could rise to 3.8 million by 2051.

However, a London-based fashion show is aiming to change all that.

Last Saturday (September 14) marked the third annual Gèlè Tea, a fashion show which profiles the famous African head wrap as well as raising awareness of dementia in the black community.

The event, at the Doubletree Hilton hotel in London, was also held to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day.

Hundreds gathered to see renowned couture designers at the show.

Adebayo Jones, Clarisicia Gill and Yemi Osunkoya of the Kosibah fashion label launched new collections at the show.

Although the trio have showed their collections at Gélé Tea since its launch in 2011, it is the first time they designed specifically for the show.

Jones, who has also been described as the King of Bling, said: “Gélé Tea is in its third year. It's time that we step up awareness. We've asked people to talk. They're talking. Now we want them to take action and become a village that pays attention to people with dementia and their carers - to draw on our community spirit."

He added: “Gélé Tea has been around since 2011. The ethos of this show is to draw attention to a disease using fashion. In this case, the gélé is being used to draw attention to the head.

"Gélé pushes boundaries and is aligned with the cause. It educates through fashion and story. Not many shows do that. It’s an innovative approach taken to draw attention to this disease and it is truly fashion for a cause."

AWARENESS: Top designer Adebayo Jones wants the black community to start talking about Alzheimer’s

Gélé is the Yoruba word for a head tie or a head wrap. It is an elaborate head tie that has great cultural and historical significance to the Yorubas of Nigeria and many other African communities.

It symbolises status, which can include class, marriage and the harmony that exists between a husband and wife in their home. In places like Ijebu, a city in southwestern Nigeria, a specially dyed purple gèlè is worn by grandmothers to signify the birth of a child.

The eye-catching design makes it a must-wear fashion item at traditional events like weddings. And it’s no surprise that it has earned the name “jewel of headties”. Like a scarf, it can be also be casual or elegant.

Gèlè has been increasing in popularity over the years. Erykah Badu has donned one. Fashion label Momo introduced gèlè at New York Fashion Week in 2009 using supermodel Alek Wek. And music superstar Beyoncé wore a gèlè for a L’Officiel magazine shoot.

Organiser Yinka Sunmonu said the iPod initiative “….feeds into pioneering initiatives such as the Music and Memory Ipod Project run by Alzheimer's Society Toronto, which personalises music for people with dementia.

"Music is said to stimulate, soothe and get positive responses from people with the disease and given the demographics of the African Caribbean population in the UK, there is a need to tailor music to their tastes and from their era."

She added: "Fashion is also a memory tool and an important part of African Caribbean community life. For example, the notion that one has to be smart.

"Just look at pictures of the arrival of the suited and well dressed men and women who stepped off the Windrush, their matching shoes and bag, the dashikis and kaftans, the hats.

"This is something that runs through generations.”

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