The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Like a Cat with Cream on its Face

Author - Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

Fashion Show
Photo © Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

It all happened so fast.

An e-mail from John Mellors. We (the Anglo-Ethiopian Society) have been approached. Can we supply someone to help compere a fashion show?


Well it goes like this. Members of London's Ethiopian community have indeed organised a fashion show - the Second London Habesha Fashion Show at the Camden Centre, Camden Town Hall, London on Saturday 22nd August 2009.

At the last minute, they realised that the Amharic-speaking compere needed an assistant compere. The assistant's role was to let the relatively few non-Amharic speakers in the 300-strong audience know what was going on.

A great opportunity to let the Ethiopian community know that there is a small but very determined bunch of ferendj rooting for them. Anything we can do to help was the attitude and hey! what an experience.

Fashion Show
Photo © Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

I got there an hour early. I reported to my boss, the lovely and very professional Hanna Demisse. Hanna took me through the planned two hour programme: Ethiopian modernday fashion, cultural fashion-wear from the provinces, evening wear, beautiful scarves - I'm on stage, dinner-jacketed and miked-up. Hanna introduces. She looks at me - my cue. Time for the well-rehearsed: be-meshitu indem't'dess'tu tesfa alegn (meant to mean, "I hope you enjoy yourselves"). Good God! A round of applause.

And now for a well deserved plug. The fashion was fabulous. Virtually everything was created by Lili Assefa. Also on show were beautiful fine silk scarves by Rahel Tekle- Peirce.

The evening's Ethiopian atmosphere was further enhanced with the availability of Ethiopian food, traditional buna and my favourite, tedj.

Fashion Show
Photo © Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

As long as I was out on stage with the lovely Hanna, there was nothing to worry about. But "Hell", I've walked out and she hasn't followed. All alone. No prompt. Time to ad lib. But about what? Ah! I know... the Anglo-Ethiopian Society: "just to let you know, ladies and gentlemen, while I have a few seconds, we have in London here a mainly ferendj society that venerates the culture and history of Ethiopia.... bla bla bla".

Thank God. Hanna has reappeared. Hanna, I thought to myself, if you ever do that again, I'm walking out on you. Doubt if she'd bat an eyelid!

Probably, a huge sigh of relief.

Audience feedback was minimal. And anyhow, Hanna, compere-wise, was the star. I did however have one important critic who thoroughly enjoyed the evening - Margaret my wife. She said I reminded her of Bruce Forsyth, getting on a bit and not able to believe his luck in still being surrounded by so many lovely ladies.

As Margaret said: "like a cat with cream on its face".

Fashion Show
Photo © Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

All this is very true. But while the models were the epitome of relaxed grace on the catwalk, life behind the stage was organised pandemonium. As (deputy) compere, I was in a permanent state of near-panic. And the models were in permanent panic rushing to change in and out of the different fashion ranges. No time for social how-do-you-dos.

Finally, this great event did highlight one point. There is here in London a modern vibrant Ethiopia which the Anglo-Ethiopian Society has yet to access: an Ethiopia of song and dance, fashion and food and happy young people. We must try and engage it. It will be such fun.

There are several professional videos relating to the Habesha Fashion Show that you can view online, sadly none featuring Geoffrey. You can watch some of the traditional designs and evening wear designs being modelled

You can also see some of the preparations for the show and watch the models rehearsing for the show and practicing their hair and make-up preparation.

More details of the scarves designed by Rahel Tekle-Peirce can be found on her website:

First Published in News File Winter 2009

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Society.
Information is offered in good faith but the Society does not warrant the status or reliability of the information contained.

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