À la mode Sudan and fashion are not usually two words that go together. At a recent competition for African designers, several Sudanese students entered, but were not selected. The new director of the Goethe Institut heard about this, and wanted to know why. Surely it could not only be a question of talent if not one single designer was chosen? It turns out that fashion students here know how to design, but not to present their work. And so another workshop was born, focusing on portfolios, CVs and marketing oneself. A spin-off for this was a night show-casing their work, where a small collection of people in the industry were invited. “You do not need to search abroad to find product and talent”, being the message. As Miss South Sudan took to the catwalk, marking the culmination of the night, the organisers were checking their watches. The previous night, another fashion show—virtually unheard of in Khartoum—had been raided by the police and people arrested for indecency. The morning’s papers had run the story and reactions from Sudanese acquaintances ranged from understanding of why they were arrested to indignation of the cultural state of the country. “I just want to get out of this place”, one friend said in exasperation. Freedoms do seem to be opening up, although at times the police flex their muscle and restrictions close in. With the Southern Sudan referendum on the horizon, certain liberties would make unity much more attractive, a goal that the governments of both North- and South-Sudan are at least nominally committed to. Should independence occur, what will become of these events and will the country tighten further, without its Southern influence? Tonight, at least, the police stayed away.

À la mode

Sudan and fashion are not usually two words that go together. At a recent competition for African designers, several Sudanese students entered, but were not selected. The new director of the Goethe Institut heard about this, and wanted to know why. Surely it could not only be a question of talent if not one single designer was chosen?

It turns out that fashion students here know how to design, but not to present their work. And so another workshop was born, focusing on portfolios, CVs and marketing oneself. A spin-off for this was a night show-casing their work, where a small collection of people in the industry were invited. “You do not need to search abroad to find product and talent”, being the message.

As Miss South Sudan took to the catwalk, marking the culmination of the night, the organisers were checking their watches. The previous night, another fashion show—virtually unheard of in Khartoum—had been raided by the police and people arrested for indecency. The morning’s papers had run the story and reactions from Sudanese acquaintances ranged from understanding of why they were arrested to indignation of the cultural state of the country. “I just want to get out of this place”, one friend said in exasperation.

Freedoms do seem to be opening up, although at times the police flex their muscle and restrictions close in. With the Southern Sudan referendum on the horizon, certain liberties would make unity much more attractive, a goal that the governments of both North- and South-Sudan are at least nominally committed to. Should independence occur, what will become of these events and will the country tighten further, without its Southern influence?

Tonight, at least, the police stayed away.