A young man arrives in a convoy of three cars — all black. He looks princely and particularly Nigerian –his agbada (made of golden lace) shining against lighting on the forecourt, and an elegant sky which has poured forth ample rain about an hour ago. As he climbs up the ten steps, cameramen line up to take photos. Click. Click. Click. On cue, his smile widens. A bevy of women join him, and there’s the sound of more clicks as flashlights bounce off their foreheads.
He goes in — the gentleman, in all his glory — through the shiny see-through door guarded by the dark police officer of noticeable build. He comes back out, and gathers the sleeves of his flowing gown which has now fallen down his right hand. He throws it over his shoulder, again, with royal grace. He signals to the man stationed by the first car. The man: a driver conditioned into zealous obedience by a life of service, gets into the driver’s side. The others get in their cars and drive off into the parking area at the end of the stretch. He smiles for more camera, and goes inside again –the policeman holding the door open for him.
More people start arriving, all familiar faces due to their frequency on television, and their pristine standing as society’s very favourite: Lexis Bill, Doreen Andoh, Joselyn Dumas, Stephanie Benson, Akumaa Mama Zimbi, respected legal name Kwame Akufo and so on. Some would climb the runway as celebrity models, others, among the privileged audience, or in plush make-shift lounge far to the left.
Such is the calibre that grace KOD’s Rhythms on Da Runway on April 1 at the Banquet Hall (Osu) — the very creme of the society.
Even more people arrive: some with an arm in the crook of a partner’s, others by themselves. Still, they all make important fashion declarations by their looks –succinctly, or by cuts and folds in strange places.
An art exhibition welcomes you when you walk through the glass door — a series of deeply breathtaking experiences which have found their way unto mere canvas. But don’t be carried away yet… it is still a fashion show you have come to. The ambience there is one of superior calm as patrons look upon the paintings with entranced eyes for significant periods.
Previously held by the grand pool at Golden Tulip Hotel, and also GH ONE TV’s studios, the 2017 edition of KOD’s Rhythms on Da Runway is also his biggest, for it has now obviously taken on international repute. It first came off in 2003, and has grown to become a truly artistic melting pot of music, fashion, visual arts and everything in between, gathering in one congregation, prominent fashion heads both locally and across the continent.
Fashion firms which represented at this year’s event are no mean names in the industry: wife Ophelia Crossland, Abrantie The Gentleman, Velma’s Accessories, Bon Collections, NINETEEN57 BY KOD himself, South Africa’s Palse, as well New York-based Kenyan designer Narok all presented breathtaking pieces. These names clearly prove that it is one of the most important gathering for the fashion ecosystem on this side of the Atlantic, if not the most important.
A relative of broadcasting legend and fellow style icon Kwesi Kyei Darkwa (KKD), the Winneba native (who recently celebrated 20 years as a media practitioner) has also designed for respected persons as former presidents Jerry Rawlings and J.E.A Mills, football stars Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jamaican Reggae star Buju Banton, international Gospel singer Sonnie Badu, broadcaster Nathaniel Attoh, and a host of others — clear testament of his superior talent with clothes. His brand, NINETEEN57, is also telling of the philosophies which shape his creation: independence, patriotism, originality –Ghana! The brand name, because of what it stands for, is both weighty and audacious, needing only the steadiest of hands to bear. KOD (Kofi Okyere Darko) knew what choosing a name out of Ghana’s independence year meant:
“I thought of 1957 because the year really represents something very special to me…not just me, but to all Ghanaians. 1957 is Ghana’s independence year, and our independence represents liberation not just for Ghanaians, but the entire black race”, he submitted to Sound City TV during the 2003 edition. Has he done a good job representing this national moment today? Without doubt!
Again, Rhythms on Da Runway is consequence of a deep-seated passion in the soul of KOD. Everybody now knows him as “Mr Classic”, because of what he has come to truly embody in this age –pushing the limits with rare courage, and proving consistently, new and exciting possibilities which are only uncovered by keen eyes as his: “In terms of fashion, I think that I’m very liberated. I’m the kind of person that wears what quite a number of people might not be able to wear”, he pointed out in the Sound City interview.
Only a quarter of the number of performers advertised for the show showed up, but even that was not a light list: Sarkodie, Bisa KDei, M.anifest, Abida from Zimbabwe, Wutah Kobby, Akwaboah, incredible band “Collectives”, and saxophonist Okyere.
Among models who walked the length of the runway that night are admired showbiz figures as actor James Gardiner, radio man Lexis Bill, PY Addo Boateng, Akumaa Mama Zimbi, Coded (of hiplife trio 4X4), and madman Kwaw Kese. This runway has attracted similar big names in the past, including (but not limited to) Sandra Ankobiah, Reggie Rockstone, Funny Face, Bola Ray, Asem, D-Black, Tinny, Jon Germain, Benny Blanco, Kwaw Kese, Keitta Osei, Kwaku-T, and Sena Gbedawo.
An assembly point of the very best Ghanaian models too, this year’s was graced this year by the likes of Chantelle Dapaah (wife of revered stylist Abrantie The Gentleman), Victoria Michaels, The Ayew Sisters, Prince, Julee Djoulde Bocoum, and Miss Ghana 2015 Antoinette Delali.
Sarkodie’s performance was the ultimate highlight of the night, as it served as precursor (and background music) for the showcase of KOD’s latest pieces. All the excitement happened then: patrons could hardly remain seated, and the cheers just wouldn’t stop. When PY emerged unto the runway, he received a rousing welcome. Beaming, he began his walk, acknowledging Akwaboah, and Sarkodie who were still stationed in the centre of the runway, dishing out a live rendition of the latter’s recent Painkiller single which features Nigerian singer Runtown. PY clashed fists with Sarkodie as salutation, and when he got to the end of the strip, he broke into dance. The crowd got even noisier. His colleagues who had agreed to model for NINETEEN57 received similar reactions.
It is not unusual that rapper Kwaw Kese modelled with bare feet (a number of the male models walked without shoes). It is the fact that the “madman” held his black pair of footwear in the grip of his fingers instead. The crowd was pleasantly shocked, and it proved very entertaining –Kese’s act. Even Sarkodie paused in the middle of singing just to exclaim “abodam!”
All the NINETEEN57 models came back out for a final time: in a row, accompanied by KOD, whose head was covered in a cap, and a hoodie he had designed himself. He walked to the front of the row, where Kwaw was standing, shoes in hand. He attempted to snatch the shoes from Kwaw. He succeeded with one, and they both made their way back to the main stage, trying not to laugh. Once more, this love-hate relationship between Kwaw and KOD (also accurately told by at least two of the latter’s videos Killer Bewu Last Show and Mmaa Pe Wu) was reenacted, and it’s all so beautiful what they have made out of this relationship over the years.
KOD and wife Ophelia Crossland have become a power couple over the years, greatly influencing the country’s fashion situation.
Fashion shows in Ghana continue to grow at a pace where they now commands a decent space in the larger textile and accessories ecosystem. The scene is actively run by persons like Darko, who continues to find inspiration from a situation that could have been better. Ghana has over the years showed the way in fashion in the sub region and has had huge names such as the late Kofi Ansah, lead the charge. Devotees of the industry have remained active despite current floundering statistics. Okyere and his colleagues hope to catch the eye of authorities to at least put fashion on the agenda on discussions bordering on Gross Domestic Product. Ghana stands to gain enormously from initiatives such as Darko’s. In 2013, the World Economic Forum estimated that the country’s Tourism sector was valued at some 2.1 billion dollars with a 5 percent contribution to GDP. The WEF forecasted a 5.4 percent growth by 2022.
Fashion is indeed a magical wand which brings all sorts of people together. Proof? Peoples of diverse heritage all collected under the large roof of the Banquet Hall, beholding with the avidity of children, the very future of style trends. It made for a colourful and inspirational image — this uniting force that fashion has also morphed into.
Rhythms on Da Runway 2017 was hosted by Joy FM’s Nathaniel Attoh, as well as Zimbabwean presenter Vimbai Mutinhiri.
More images courtesy VINE/ Frozzen Second: