Fashion artist Londa Msanii literally embodied the spirit of FusionFest by being named the top designer at this year’s second annual multicultural festival, held November 30 and December 1 in downtown Orlando. Msanii was awarded $1,000 by the festival’s panel of fashion judges for two original garments that brought together the apparel traditions of Africa and Japan in a bold new hybrid.
Msanii’s first piece, modeled by Miss North Orlando Leyennshka Batista, was a mid-length sleeve kimono constructed from a cotton West African print. Colorful and expertly fitted, it was tied by an obi (or sash) of African garden hibiscus. The second outfit, as worn by Msanii herself, was based on a head-turning South African-style apron made from a Japanese brocade design and decorated in cowry shells, animal feathers and a Maasai beaded necklace representing Tanzania.
“I love the fact that, as contestants, we were allowed to select our own regions and express ourselves freely with our designs,” Msanii says.
Paying tribute to African culture is important to Msanii, who learned its beauty and richness as a child growing up in Buffalo, New York. For her FusionFest entries, she was moved to incorporate Japanese stylings as well, in a tandem salute to what she calls “the warriors of human history that fought to preserve culture and protect the land.”
Africa and Japan were among the more than 100 heritage cultures represented at the second annual FusionFest, which drew approximately 15,000 people to celebrate diversity through art, music, dance, food and other forms of creative expression.
“It was such a pleasure participating in FusionFest this year,” Msanii says. “I was nervous but did not feel pressured at all. It was a friendly environment and a pleasure meeting the other designers.”
In addition to her work in fashion, Msanii is active in the area of thyroid cancer awareness and advocacy. “I was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease (MTC), and after three occurrences, I’ve decided it was time to bring my passion and purpose together,” she says. She hosts an annual fashion show back home in Buffalo every September (which is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month), and would like to bring the undertaking to Orlando in the future.
To see more of her work, visit londamsanii.com.
FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020.