APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Senami Atinkpahoun: Je Suis is an up and coming fashion line created by myself and my best friend Deonna Spence. We were both thinking about starting up our own lines and it just made sense to do it together. The summer of 2010 was when we actually started sketching and sewing and since then we’ve been asked to do a whole bunch of fashion shows and photo shoots. Its been a great journey and we are excited to see where things take us next. We started the line when we were 17 and now we are 18, so the line is growing and maturing just as we are.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Senami: The use of African prints is a reflection of culture. We usually mix traditional Ankara with solids to create modern and creative pieces. I was born in Benin, West Africa, and I have always been fascinated with our fabric. It was always different and so bold. My partner on the other hand is American, so the way we use fabric reflects both of our cultures, especially the “Half&Half” dresses or skirts that we make. They are Half&Half because both of us make up Je Suis.
APiF: What inspires u?
Senami: The possibility of tomorrow is something that inspires the both of us. Knowing that there is another opportunity to do more, better, to grow, and learn. No matter what we achieve, the possibility of tomorrow keeps us wanting to go harder.
We tend to be inspired by anything. I could be walking down the street and see a leaf fall and think of an idea or be in the middle of a conversation and a sketch pops up in my head. I love creativity and beauty and I get inspired a lot by Africa itself. So many great and beautiful things come from Africa and being from there makes me want to flaunt it.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Senami: The Je Suis Signature Half & Half Dress. It is one of our most popular pieces. The design, cut, down to the color coordination is one of the best. I believe it also reflects Deonna and I as business partners. Her American influences as well as my African background mixes together in this piece. It also reflects our brand in the sense that the piece is colorful, sexy, creative, unique, versatile, and can be anything from casual to couture.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Senami: Starting out we used facebook to showcase our designs and gradually, we began doing fashion shows and branching out. Je Suis has a Model Mayhem account as well as Tumblr, which is one of my favorite places to post our work, because there is so much creativity on Tumblr. People are interested in what we’re doing and we also learn from others. We also have an online store.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Senami: I would advise new designers to make connections and build strong relationships. Being up and coming is not always an easy thing. There are so many amazing designers who have been at it for years and breaking in is a very hard thing to do. So I would advise anyone starting up to be persistent. Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible and try to have a solid following. When people are able to recognize your brand or logo, or even your name, you are doing something right. And NETWORK!