Fashion is one thing but style is quite another.  Fashion you can buy.  Style is priceless.  It would be safe to say the Manchester Central Library’s stunningly beautiful Shakespeare Hall played host to an evening of unrivalled design brought to life by wonderful models all of whom made the clothing speak in volumes thanks to their innate sense of style and obvious affinity with the designs they were showing.

This “Black Creative Soiree” which was a sold out, standing room only event, was no ordinary runway show, punctuated as it was by spoken word and musical performances.  First a hearty round of applause is due to the fabulous audience, a full house of the best dressed fashionistas and style mavens who Manchester’s black business community can proudly boast as its own.  This was a celebration of culture and creativity – but at no time did it ever feel exclusive to any particular community.  The producers Cultureville and Bob Expo in partnership with Manchester’s BIPC made sure this was one superbly inclusive event.  This was reflected in each and every element of the evening from model choice to musical styles.  There was a sense that this was a moment that perfectly captured the reality of life as it is for this group of business people and entrepreneurs.

First to take to the runway was Bittany.  Vibrant African prints popped against a range of neutral tones and beautifully tailored garments.  Each look was strong and assured.  Every piece on show had its own personality but fitted together perfectly in the final tableau as the models congregated at the presentation’s end.  There were no pieces missing in Bittany’s colour-infused jigsaw.

Next up was Not Your Trend which showed perhaps the most edgy designs of the evening.  This show felt assured.  Strongly drawn dark and sharp silhouettes illuminated with flashes of red, white and metallics stalked the red carpet.  Clothes for clubbing reminiscent of New York artists Basquiat and Haring who brought NYC to life in the 80s. 

There was a sense of expectation awaiting Cultureville’s collection and in response the award-winning brand delivered a parade of exquisitely cut and tailored showstoppers.  Each piece had a life of its own and once again the models seemed to sense the drama in every stitch as they walked.  Cultureville’s great strength is its ability to incorporate eye-poppingly rich prints into super-wearable pieces that can take the wearer from work to play and beyond…It’s all in the accessories and whether a Louboutin heel or a Lanvin sneaker is your footwear of choice Cultureville is a look you can easily rock.

Lohi Fashion had the unenviable task of showing last but this sublime merger of Africa and Western Culture had nothing to fear from the other brands.   They complemented the overall look and feel of the evening – design working in partnership and friendly collaboration. Once again this work stood distinct and self-confident.  There were some beautifully simple ath-leisure pieces on show but the showstopper moment must surely for many have been when two gym toned men dropped exquisite robes from their shoulders adding a touch of muscle to bring the soiree’s fashion shows to a triumphant end.

Of course this was so much more than a celebration of contemporary design in Manchester. Others who found their place in the spotlight at the end of the runway included hosts Carol Ann Whitehead and Kemoy Walker whose commentary and friendly banter kept pace perfectly with the unfolding entertainment stage centre. This came from poets “This Heart of Mine”, Griot Gabriel, Cherrelle Anne and Funmi Adeyo all of whom wove a range of emotional touchpoints into the fabric of an evening filled with music perhaps most notably from Miah Jackson whose unique sound left the audience spellbound.

All this was beautifully wrapped up in a background of artworks created by public artist and educator Venessa Scott and Selina Chibanda’s Eye Am Africa.

The BIPC Manchester in the Central Library was delighted to host such a vibrant exhibition of talent which it has been, in the case of Cultureville, proud to nurture and develop.  

The future is looking bright with more of these events with a focus on outreach and celebrating personality in business scheduled in the coming months…