The United Colours of Fashion festival 2022 surpassed last year’s guest count, said co-founder Rufina Ajalie.Rhythm Rathi/Telegraph Journal

Original Published on Aug 23, 2022 at 22:45

By Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A 16-year-old self-taught fashion designer, Anna Dysart, was declared the viewer’s choice award at the United Colours of Fashion’s 2022 multicultural festival on Saturday.

After a live audience poll, the young aspiring designer was chosen as the winner. Dysart was unable to attend the event as she was at a two-week dance intensive in Nova Scotia, but four pieces from her recent creations were able to make it to the ramp due to her mother Marcia Dysart filling her absence.

This was the second year for the UCOF festival and had two parts to it – the first being a multicultural fashion show held at Imperial Theatre between 2 and 4 p.m. and the second being a multicultural marketplace organized at King’s Square from 3 to 6 p.m., where designers who wished, could sell their dresses. A total of six kid designers, 10 adult designers and two craft vendors took part in the event. 

The fashion show was preceded by multicultural music and dance performances and the marketplace event also had food, crafts and cultural entertainment.

United Colours of Fashion is a non-profit organization that supports immigrants and minorities in various sectors, said co-founder Rufina Ajalie. She also mentioned that the organization believes in “celebrating cultural diversity” and promotes “emerging fashion designers and entrepreneurs in the Maritimes who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).

Dysart’s mother said her daughter had developed the skill of designing at a very young age, “about seven years old,” and her introduction to sewing was when she was working with her grandmother on a small school project.

“When she was little, she would like, make designs with anything she could find… like towels and sheets and she would sew using tape.”

According to the mother, Dysart has been learning from Youtube and her own imagination since then. She said that her daughter has always been surrounded by art and the family has always been “big supporters of the arts in all its forms.” Dysart was taken to symphonies, art galleries, art performances, etc., when she was as young as three.

She has made a collection of 10 dresses, out of which four were displayed in the fashion show. The mother says this is what her daughter wants to pursue as a career and winning an award is a “pretty good start.”

“I think she really has a great potential,” said Dysart.

Ajalie praised Dysart’s work, saying that she is amazed to see such a young girl creating beautiful fashion. She mentioned that it is not necessary for people to be BIPOC to engage with the organization and anybody looking to work together and network is welcome. According to her, this was UCOF’s second year and over 500 guests attended the event, the crowd surpassed last year’s numbers.  

Designer Funmilayo Sotikare from Moncton travelled to participate in the fashion show. She said she brought her creations of African Ankara print to be displayed on the ramp and was very excited. “It feels very cool to participate.”

“We are amazed at the skillsets newcomers bring and for many this platform serves as a sense of belonging to reconnect with their true self,” said Christine Eruokwu, co-founder of United Colours of Fashion in a press release.

Ajalie confirmed that all the money collected from the event will be contributed towards the UCOF Sewing Hub project and the fashion festival began last year to support their sewing hub which helps newcomers develop their talent and acquire sewing skills “to boost their income and advance their education or careers in the fashion industry.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Telegraph-Journal, Saint John, New Brunswick