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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interview with Diana Opoti: "Making African Fashion Brands feel accessible"

Afromania by NKWO
PR expert, business woman, fashion enthusiast and advocate for African Fashion Designers - Diana Opoti, based in Nairobi, Kenya, started the social media campaign "100 Days of African Fashion" on Instagram to showcase fashion by African Designers. Today is day 100.

APiF: 100 days of African Fashion - what was the objective of the campaign and are you happy with the outcome?
Diana Opoti: I recently started my Fashion PR consultancy here in Nairobi to represent fashion brands and labels looking to come into Kenya, so I was very keen to create awareness of brands from other parts of Africa. I needed to know what type of looks/brands consumers were likely to be interested in purchasing, the favorable price points as well as shift attitude and get followers to go beyond liking pictures and make inquiries to purchase. I figured if I wore so many "branded" looks it would help raise an appreciation of owning African designer made products.

Also, I noticed that because of the challenges in distribution and retail, most times we see African fashion brands, they are pictured on runways and glossy look books. Most consumers can't relate to this, so I was keen to make brands feel accessible by showing them in an every day setting.
I would say its been a huge success - mostly one of discovery for my followers, but I believe its restored a lot of confidence in designers who've been questioning the success of the "I am an African brand business model".

APiF: Did you actively select designers or did designers send you creations that you then selected for the campaign?
Diana: So during my travels (last 18 months) I built quite a selection of African brands from countries I visited (South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania) so I started the campaign with my own clothes but mid into this, designers started writing, requesting that I feature their brands in my campaign.

by Azrawalji
I have been selective though - brands I feature, whether established, emerging or up new have to demonstrate a commercial positioning - and have visibility online (websites, regularly updated social platforms and open communication systems in place).

APiF: How many days upfront did you plan your outfits?
Diana: Many people ask me this. Truth be told, I dress like most normal people do, for my mood and what the day has in store for me - so more casual looks over the weekends and dressier work looks at the beginning of the week. My partner took my pictures daily - and my team updated socials daily - monitoring feedback and recording it for tallying later. This was important to allow new looks from designers and to stay completely engaged throughout the campaign.

APiF: Not living on the continent - logistically it can be challenging for customers to get their hands on the latest and coolest designs from African Designers. Do you see this changing in the near future and if yes how? 
Diana: e-commerce platforms, concession stores and boutiques as well trunk shows around fashion events are all useful strategies that we can start to explore more purposefully. I'd say marketing should be prioritized to make platforms more visible.The continent already has amazing platforms selling African brands - Sapelle, Kisua, My Asho, Spree, Moonlook - we just need to push more awareness of the new collections and these sites.
Day 100: Skirt by Doreen Mashika

APiF: I have to ask: What was one of your favorite outfits during the 100 days?
Diana: I have so many favorite looks and brands! Important to note - I own the stuff I highlighted - I invest in talent, in beautiful pieces and the promise for the business on the continent.

APiF: What are your future plans? 
Diana: We have specialized campaigns we are planning like Pop-ups and Trunk Shows coming up in 2015. Following 100 days I am launching Diana Opoti's Must-Haves which lists 6 key items for people to buy monthly. I will continue to show 1 or 2 looks weekly of selected designs. An African concession store in Nairobi is something I am keen to explore.

Find out more:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Afro-Polis: A new kind of engagement with modern Africana

APiF: Please introduce yourself.
Pierre-Christophe Gam: My name is Pierre-Christophe Gam. I am a Chantilly born and bred, artist/art director of Cameroonian, Chadian and Egyptian ancestry and the founder of Afro-Polis.

APiF: What is Afro-Polis and what does the term stand for?
Pierre-Christophe: AFRO-POLIS is an innovative cultural platform, whose aim is to create a multi-dimensional exploration and critical discovery of Africa’s cultural DNA by fostering a participatory forum via events, talks and exhibitions. The Afro in the name stands for Africa and Polis for city or body of citizen in Greek. The name refers to the idea of a mythical global African city, where the whole world could come rejoice and share knowledge about Africa.

APiF: What inspired you to start this event?  
Pierre-Christophe: 'If not NOW, WHEN ? If not US, WHO ?' by JFK. It comes from a deep desire to path the way for a new kind of engagement with modern Africana. This year's event is subtitled the African Renaissance and it will be an unconventional mix between an Art exhibition and a Festival. We call it "Experiential exhibition". It will offer a unique and multisensory exploration of the modern African Way of life, as lived through the eye of a fictitious couple, 'The Affogbolos'. A rich and stimulating experience, it will encompass an exhibition, a dinning experience, a Pop-Up concept store and will fuse talks, workshops, live performances and much more.  
APiF: How does Afro-Polis differ from African Fashion Weeks that seem to pop-up all over the US and Europe?
Pierre-Christophe: Afro-Polis focus is not exclusively on African-made or -inspired fashion, but on the whole of the modern African cultural landscape. We are a cultural platform with a global scope, ranging from Art, Design, Architecture, Cinema, Music and Fashion. 

APiF: How do designers benefit from Afro-Polis?
Pierre-Christophe: We have partnered with international cultural minds such as the Vitra Design Museum, The Desmond Tutu Fellowship, The London Mayor Office and The Lagos Photo Festival among others. The event will be a unique opportunity to engage with a varying array of participants and speakers over the course of 5 days including Taiye Selasi (NY time bestseller) and James Barnor (the legendary Ghanaian photographer) among others. Designers will benefit from participation to a far reaching and multi-dimensional conversation which will be attended by global taste makers and international cool kids.

APiF: First Paris now London - when will Afro-Polis come to NYC?
Pierre-Christophe: I strongly believe in building things organically. Last year was Paris, this year London, and next year will include on top of these two, Venice, Lagos and New York.

 Afro-Polis takes place from the 15th to 19th of October in London.

Find out more:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Share Your Style Friday (SYSF)

 Photos by Lars Kastilan

The last Friday in September has arrived. Unbelievable that it will be October already next week! It has already started to be a bit chilly at night, so quite fitting that today's "Share Your Style Friday" (SYSF) post is about jackets.

Blogger Wambui Njuguna, based in Helsinki, Finland, sent in these cool pics. Wambui about her jackets: "Both jackets are my design. I chose the fabric and Maasai blanket when I was visiting Nairobi. Then I had them sewn up using an old jacket I had bought many years ago." 

 I really really love the jacket she created out of the Maasai blanket. Tartan will be an essential part of my Fall/Winter design this season.  

How do you like this SYSF look - is it hot or not? Comment below!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Like a Butterfly: Eki Orleans SS 2015

Model GTM Rissikat
MUA Karen Salandy
Hair Regina Meessen
Stylist Christabel Saul
Photographer Katie Blench

One of the highlights of AFWNY was the collection by Nigerian designer Eki Orleans. Her light and colorful creations - inspired by butterflies - literally floated down the runway. I saw lots of sexy, stylish dresses that I would love to wear next summer!
The designer Hazel Eki Aggrey-Orleans about her Nature’s fairies collection: "When I think of butterflies on the African continent, I think of bright popping colors that grace these beautiful species. We worked with a palette of predominantly neon green and fuchsia pink colors, allowing the prints to pop. Butterflies are delicate creatures and I wanted to create flying pieces of art that were both exotic and soft." 

Which outfit would you like to fly away in?  
Find out more:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Share Your Style Friday

It is Share your Style Friday (SYSF) again! A Kitenge print shift dress over leggings - great look especially for fall if paired with booties or boots - but also works with flats in the summer. The look was submitted by the blogger Tendai Sophia from The dress was made by NGOSIKADZI.

How do you like this SYSF look - is it top or not? Comment below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chinedesign impresses with TheBravingRitual

I get a lot of emails from designers that want to share their collection. But this email from, Chinedu Ukabam, head designer of Chinedesign, really excited me. His fall/winter collection titled TheBravingRitual is quite frankly the bomb!

Based in Toronto, Canada, Chinedu took his inspiration "from the warrior spirit it often requires to face and conquer the sometimes harsh winters of the Great White North". The collection mixes leather, wax print, Scottish tartan wool and indigo-dyed bogolan fabrics from Mali. This mix is what makes the creations from Chinedesign so unique and innovative. The jacket just looks haute and amazing, the shirt dress cool, stylish and trendy. Have I mentioned that I could imagine wearing every single piece? How do you like the collection?

The lucky ones who live in Toronto: Chinedesign is hosting a Supafrik pop-up event this Sunday, the 21st of September, from 1 pm - 7 pm. Location:
TAC Art/Work Gallery, 568 Richmond Street West, Toronto.

Find out more:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Samson Soboye: "African print is the new paisley"

Samson Soboye opened his store 13 years ago and focused more on traditional African designs and artifacts. That changed with the UK Olympics. He designed dress shirts for men out of African print - and they sold out in minutes. Samson realized he had something here and started to expand the brand. 

This Spring he showcased besides menswear for the first time also women's wear at Africa Fashion Day Berlin which was very well received. Being blessed with a cool name that others would have to make up when creating a brand, Samson isn't worried that the whole African Print bubble is going to burst. For him "African print is the new paisley". 

His store in Shoreditch, one of the relatively new and emerging hipster areas in London that is really worth a visit, is located right opposite the studio from artist Hassan Hajjij.That Samson has a styling background is quite obvious when visiting his store as it is very nicely decorated and an experience in itself. If you stop by during lunch time ask him for the best and most expensive pizza place in the world!

Location of store: 13 Calvert Ave, London E2 7JP 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Playing Dress-up: Duro Olowu SS 2015

How do you like the Spring/Summer 2015 collection from print master Duro Olowu? It looks very much like him - elegant, print-driven. However, more muted and less colorful then his past collections. I really like the dresses in this grey/black/brown/rose print - I wouldn't have associated Spring/Summer with it, rather Autumn/Winter. It looks like something I totally could wear right now together with a leather jacket and boots.

I love the composition of the images. As if we are looking into someones room and observe the lady of the house playing dress-up. The shoes are pretty awesome, too. Just a bummer that most of his dresses start at 1000 USD and beyond.  What is your favorite look?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Interview: MONAA - Sandals inspired by the King of the Ashanti

APiF: Please introduce your brand.
Nana Dabanka: MONAA is the footwear label which my sister Afua and I created in 2013 in homage to our Ashanti heritage. Our sandals are handmade by artisans in Ghana. We use leathers which we source globally and refine the sandals with African-inspired embellishments.
We put our heads together at the end of 2012 and started discussing concepts, designs, branding and most importantly logistics, because the one thing we were very clear about from the onset was that Ghana or, for that matter, an African country, would be our place of production.

APiF: What is special compared to other shoe labels?
Nana: Traditional elements and inspirations are integral part of our designs. For example our slipper "Ahenema" is a modern version of the Ashanti royal slipper. We streamlined the very characteristic sole of the slipper and used modern colors for the uppers, such as electric blue, fuchsia and a cheetah print. Our sandal, "Quick Lady" is embellished with gold beads. These beads are made of bonduc seeds which in Ghana are used to play the traditional board game, Oware.

APiF: What is your professional background. How did you get into fashion / shoe design?
Nana: I am an interpreter by profession and work in the legal field. I studied footwear and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Design. Afua is a banker turned shoe designer and it was for the love of shoes she actually first created MO SAIQUE a ladies footwear brand before setting up MONAA with me.

APiF: How does your heritage inspire/influence your designs?
Nana: MONAA is all about our heritage. Our SS15 collection is called "The King's Palace" and is inspired by our childhood fascination with the interior of the palace of the Asantehene, the King of the Ashanti tribe. The metallic leathers and gold ornaments on the sandals symbolize the decadent jewels spilling from the King's treasure chests. The look and feel of the collection is also influenced by other luxe details found in the Asantehene's residence such as animal skins, luxurious rugs that cover the palatial floors and the pom-poms which adorn the royal umbrellas used to shield him from the sun.

APiF: Sisters and Business Partners - a blessing or a curse?
Nana: It's an absolute ble‎ssing because we believe in the same work ethic, are both driven by being punctual, neat and precise in everything we do (that's the German in us). Since we know each other so well, we can be brutally honest about our ideas and vision without offending the other person. Also, Afua is really good with numbers and I am better with words, so we really compliment each other.

Besides, we can talk business all the time and do not have to respect another person's personal time as much. Since we live in different time zones, Afua lives in London and I live in New York, we can literally call each other 24/7 and no-one will be mad. We sometimes have hour-long conference calls at 6am EST while I am still in bed!

APiF: How can readers purchase your products?

Nana: Our collection will be available in select stores and online shopping portals early in Spring 2015. We are also planning pop-up stores and trunk shows, so watch this space for more!

APiF: Any tips for new start-ups in the Fashion Industry?
Nana: It is absolutely crucial to know your customer and remain true to your brand. But you must also have means to fund your business and as a friend of mine once said to me "Always be prepared for success!"

Find out more:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Òkun: Africa-inspired beachwear for the ocean

Flocking to the sea / Crowds of people wait for me / Sea gulls scavenge / Steal ice cream / Worries vanish / Within my dream

The Africa-inspired beachwear label for men Òkun makes me somehow think about my absolute favorite song "The Sea" by Morcheeba. In Yoruba Òkun means Ocean. 

The label was created by Bola Marquis who left the corporate world to create a contemporary Africa-inspired fashion brand for men. The label offers canvas shoes and swim shorts that can also be worn away from the beach and for example on the golf course. The prints are custom made and an interpretation of traditional fabrics like Congolese Kuba, Kenyan Kikoy and African Wax prints. I love the aesthetic of the brand and especially the wallpaper!

How do you like the shoes and swim shorts?

Find out more:
i: @okunbeachwear


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