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A Dream of Africa — Liam Fahy Spring 2013 “Congo” Footwear Collection

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Though he’s of Irish and British descent, footwear designer Liam Fahy has more than a passing acquaintance with southern Africa — in fact, he was born in Zimbabwe and spent much of his childhood living in a small snake farm within a suburb known for being a hub for creative sorts like sculptors, painters, textile weavers, and musicians. During his early adulthood, while pursing his collegiate studies, he opted to take a year off to move away from the city and, instead, live with the Tonga tribe settled by the Zambezi River in North-Western Zimbabwe. Fahy refers to this experience as being instrumental in his creative development and, in many ways, as serving as the impetus for him to pursue his artistic dreams, ultimately enrolling at the Montfort University of England to study footwear design. Two years after launching his eponymous footwear line, Fahy has unveiled a collection that pays homage to his rearing in Africa. As its name implies, the Liam Fahy Spring 2013 Congo collection, then, incorporates colors and patterns inspired by the indigenous people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, neighboring Zambia and, in turn, Zimbabwe.

Tribal influences are particularly evident in styles like the Charlotte ($956.25 at LiamFahy.com), shown above at top, which features a Dutch wax print or java print, made by hand-drawing a pattern on cotton cloth, then applying melted wax into the fabric and dipping it in dye. The almond-toed, fabric-covered pumps feature a 4″-tall heel, an ankle collar, a back zipper, and criss-crossing straps along the vamp that can then be tied around the ankle. Celebrations of the Congo Rainforest’s wildlife, meanwhile, are evident in styles like the Alys ($879.75 at LiamFahy.com), pictured third from top, an open-toed ankle bootie with a white wedge heel and suede uppers featuring a slightly weathered-looking zebra print; and the ankle-high Brigitte ($1,354.05 at LiamFahy.com) sandals, shown second from top, which feature glossy red-and-black water snake uppers and 4″-tall heel, and which lace all the way up along the front, the black cord laces following an undulating path that resembles a snake’s wavy forward motion pattern and capped off with tiny tassels made of the same water snake material.

Made of supple Elbamatt leather in a reddish brown hue reminiscent of the hide of a Bongo antelope, the Anouk sandals ($680.85 at LiamFahy.com), pictured fourth above, are essentially lace-up gladiator sandals, but the look of the uppers infuses a rustic feel into the shoes.

Though perhaps an unorthodox choice for a footwear collection named after the Congo, the Adora booties shown last above ($879.75 at LiamFahy.com) do nod to the rest of the collection via their color: a rich burgundy red reminiscent of the mountain ranges in South Kivu or, for that matter, of the color of the beret hats worn by the soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These see-through  mesh booties feature a suede-covered heel and a smooth suede heel counter, along with suede piping along the open toe, the ankle collar, and the U-shaped open vamp, which is itself adorned by satin ribbons.

During the past three decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo has underwent a number of civil wars, resulting in mass genocide, political instability, the destruction of property, displacement, and social and civil rights injustices ranging from sexual violence against women to kidnappings, sexual slavery, and children being forced to pick up weapons and join armies. The Congo is currently in a state of transition, with the United Nations pushing to stabilize the region and the Red Cross imploring that nations all over the world work together to protect women from gender inequality and sexual violence.

The region may have a troubled and violent past, then, but it’s also a gorgeous, bio-diverse land replete with rainforests, grasslands, and flooded swamp forests that are home to over 400 specie of animals — from gorillas to manatees, antelopes, gazelles, zebras, pelicans, swallows, hippos, water snakes, tortoises and much more. It also boasts a rich cultural history and has birthed such talented creative powerhouses as painters Chéri Samba and Lema Kusa, writer Sony Lab’ou Tansi, poet Clémentine Nzuji, and sculptors Freddy Tsimba and Alfred Liyolo. By nodding to some of the colors, animals, and cultural traditions of the area, Liam Fahy has extolled the land’s many virtues and celebrated its beauty, reminding the world about the rich history and the promise of the area.

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