The first thought that came to mind when I met the women of the City of Joy was, ‘Is there anyone stronger than you?’

– Gabriela Sanchez y Sanchez de la Barquera, print designer at Vlisco

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The first thought that came to mind when I met the women of the City of Joy was, ‘Is there anyone stronger than you?’

– Gabriela Sanchez y Sanchez de la Barquera, print designer at Vlisco

 

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Vlisco and the City of Joy honour the “World’s Strongest Women” with a heartfelt fabric collection that symbolises their recovery from rape and trauma, and their journey from pain to power. The City of Joy in Bukavu, Eastern Congo, helps women overcome suffering and stigma, and emerge as leaders, entrepreneurs and educators.

THE CITY OF JOY COLLECTION

The women of City of Joy asked Gabriela Sanchez y Sanchez de la Barquera to create a design to honour the work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege. With the stories of these courageous women in mind, she designed five fabrics, marked on the selvedge with the words Respect, Love, Strength, which reflect the women’s healing and renewal through sisterhood, love and mutual respect.

 

Five female, African fashion designers were asked to make garments for 15 of the graduates from the City of Joy. The women asked if they could showcase the fabrics themselves in a fashion show that seeks to bring the world’s attention to violence against women. All the profits from the sale will be donated by Vlisco to the City of Joy.

Dt Block1 Look
Dt Block1 Look
Carine Luguvi Maonyesho, Jeanne Mukunnilwa, Fideline Hekima Shamavu
Dt Block2 Look
Dt Block2 Look
Joyce Hamuli, Kabuo Kamate Desanges, Julienne Zhalirwa Murhala
Dt Block3 Look
Dt Block3 Look
Esther Tulizo
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Dt Block4 Look
Furaha Muzengwa, Rachel Ntagulwanguma Maroy, Francine Zihalirwa
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Dt Block5 Look
Brigitte Amnazo, Ziada Basebanya, Vivianne Kitumaini Ciribagula
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Dt Block6 Look
Angele Ndibabaza, Yvette Sikilize

THE FASHION DESIGNERS BEHIND THE GARMENTS

Tolu Coker

Tolu Coker is a British-Nigerian fashion designer, textile designer and illustrator based in London. Her work has been internationally recognised. Her global client base includes names like Rihanna. Her work extends beyond the medium of clothing, with her illustrations, documentaries and fashion films.

Aisha Ayensu

Aisha Ayensu is Founder and Creative Director of the award-winning fashion brand Christie Brown. Christie Brown has had extensive coverage across global fashion and mainstream media.

Oritsegbubemi Ogisi

Bubu Ogisi is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative director specialising mainly in abstract space installations, garments and textile design. Bubu Ogisi is the Creative director of the contemporary women’s wear brand, IAMISIGO. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, she now resides between Lagos and Nairobi.

Rebecca Zoro

Rebecca Zoro was born and raised in the Ivory Coast. As a child, her father called her by the name of YHEBE, which translates to love and sensitivity. This is embodied in the clean lines and simple, modern and elegant silhouettes, which are the signature of the YHEBE brand.

Abiola Adeniran-Olusola

Born and raised in Nigeria, Abiola launched her eponymous fashion brand in 2017 after her studies in Paris. Abiola’s collections are made with locally printed and sourced fabrics and are inspired by modern African women who are constantly on the go. She has worked at notable brands like Givenchy and Lanvin.

Congo
River

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The river represents a dark place of pain but small seeds grow upwards and become strong flowers, symbolic of the women who are autonomous but still a family.

The Orchid

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This is an ode to the vagina and how it should be loved and cherished for its fragile beauty.

Sisterhood

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The knotting of the twine represents inner turmoil. But the seeds deep in the twisted threads grow into flowers. And the intertwined flowers show the bond between the women of the City of Joy.

THE
Lion

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The lion sitting on his perch, dignified and a little sad, represents Dr Denis Mukwege.
The fish are following him, the butterflies are the return of beauty to the dark forest and the birds herald the end of conflict.

BOUQUET

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The vagina, source of all life, is set against the blackness of the universe. Every flower is different as is every woman. The vagina rests on tumultuous waves which represent the unpredictability of the sea and of life.

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Taking part in this process has been a very positive experience for the women involved. They have been the driving force in the project and that is reflected in the vivacity and colour of the fabrics and the originality of the designs.

– Christine Schuler Deschryver, Co-Founder and Director of City of Joy

CREDITS

FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER

Atong Atem

FASHION DESIGNERS

Tolu Coker | Aisha Ayensu | Oritsegbubemi Ogisi | Rebecca Zoro | Abiola Adeniran-Olusola