Fellowship Program for Emerging Designers from Africa

The Paper Fig Fellows work alongside experts during Fashion Week in New York and across Africa. Fellows are immersed in an in-depth, behind-the-scenes experience at the largest fashion events in the world. During their fellowship in New York, each fellow shadows designers, backstage technicians, scenic artists, A/V crew, and lighting specialists. Fellows take back best practices and insight gained from the experience to their respective countries within Africa to further advance their own programs.

The Paper Fig Foundation selects two people who have worked on one of our four platforms in Africa – Kampala Fashion Week, Collective RW in Rwanda, Glitz Fashion Week in Ghana, or Lagos Fashion Week in Nigeria – to come over to New York Fashion Week each season. They could be designers, production team members, back stage managers, show callers, hair and makeup specialists… anything involved with the platform. In New York, they train under the LDJ fashion show production team.

“They get real hands-on industry experience,” said Laurie DeJong, “so they can take back to their countries and apply, and share their knowledge with their teams on the ground in their countries.” 

To fund one Paper Fig Fellow costs $5000, and this includes flight to New York and accommodations while here, as well as mentoring and support in their home country. 

“They apply for the scholarship, and we come over and interview them,” explained DeJong. “But it’s always people we’ve known. We’ve worked with them on the ground for at least two years so we know they have promise – we bring the shining stars over.”

But where we are now is not where we intend to stay. The fellows program will grow, and most of that growth will happen in Africa. 

“My dream for the program is to have some of our graduates in the fellowship program working for The  Paper Fig Foundation in their countries,” said Laurie DeJong. “So they can continue the training and the sharing of best practices, so that it's more of a sustainable effort within the continent.”