Photographers' Blog

Bissau: fashion, flair and hip-hop

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

By Joe Penney

If you drive through the Mistra neighborhood of Bissau – the charming, ramshackle capital of Guinea-Bissau – signs of peoples’ love for American hip-hop are everywhere.

The local football pitch is named “California” after Tupac’s song “California Love.” Clothes reading “50 Cent” or “Thug Life” are commonplace, and Rihanna’s latest hits blare out from rusty radios beneath the mango trees.

While a fondness for American hip-hop is shared throughout West Africa (Tupac is nearly everyone’s favorite rapper), Guinea-Bissau’s unique cultural influences give it its own distinctive style.

A colony of Portugal until 1974, the small, West African nation maintains strong cultural and economic links to other Portuguese-speaking countries including Angola and Brazil.

As a result, Guinea-Bissau’s fashion sense is a mix of hip-hop, flamboyant Angolan “kuduro” style, and more traditional West African outfits.

Keeping up with the catwalk

By Suzanne Plunkett

Looking back at images from more than a decade ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that the job of covering catwalk season was once far less demanding, but just as fashions change, so do the demands on photographers.

When I made my Fashion Week debut at a DKNY show in New York in the spring of 1999, all I had to worry about was getting a well-exposed, in-focus photo of every outfit on the catwalk. Since we were still shooting in film, this came with its own stresses. Every time I finished a roll, there was a desperate scramble to rewind and change before the next model paraded by.

To ensure I didn’t miss anything, I adopted my own Fashion Week fashion: A particular leather jacket that had two pockets at chest level; the left side for unexposed films and the right side for exposed.

Seen on the fashion scene

By Allison Joyce

Held twice yearly in February and September, New York Fashion Week features designers from all over the world, displaying their creations on the runways. A small venue of tents pops up in Lincoln Center to house the crowd of celebrities, designers and models who descend upon the city. The event also draws its own share of notable and outrageous personalities, fashionistas, and those who come just to be seen on the scene.

I am now into my fourth year of covering the event and have started to recognize a group of colorful, sassy characters who come to Fashion Week each year. Some are former models, some are bloggers, and others seem to be famous just for their outlandish outfits or feline sidekicks. A few of them stand out because they are decked out in the same colorful suits, ostentatious hair styles and eye catching accessories year after year, appearing in the lobby or on the pavilion like clockwork. Most of them seem to be there for the same reasons, to network and be part of the scene.

While most New Yorkers are sitting at their desks or following their daily routines on a Monday morning, ten blocks away, an entirely different scene is unfolding. Backstage, there is a flurry of hairspray, lipstick, clothes, shoes and champagne. On the runway, Anna Wintour is perched on her front row seat next to Nicki Minaj, watching the show to the boom of house music. Meanwhile, out front in the lobby, Janet Finkel is walking her cat, Natasha, while Cognac Wellerlane struts by, coiffed in her beehive.

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