APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.Bélya: Bélya is a fashion clothing and accessories brand that uses high quality wax print, woven loincloth and leather to melange West African traditional fashion with contemporary Western style. Vibrant colors and patterns are cut and matched to our original designs to create everything from shoes to blazers; no two are the same, ever.
APiF: How does your heritage inspire/influence your designs?
Bélya: I am African (Senegal); family, culture and relationships and stories are as much a part of me as my smile. In fact, they helped create my smile in the same way they appear in my products. I love my ancestry, the stories and visions being sewn in each color/pattern. It could be something my grandmother or cousin did or said that sparks something that ends up in a design. The color choices and patterns awaken the spirit, they’re alive.
APiF: If your label would be a person, what kind of person would it be?
Bélya: A person who loves life, excited, happy, sharing, daring, expressive, dancing fool, when it rains they make a video because everything has a beautiful purpose.
APiF: What is your professional background?
Belya: I graduated from the University with a degree in accounting. I worked in retail for 3 years as an Occitane associate. I created my own clothes as a response to the lack of choices that fit my style and attitude toward fashion. My friends encouraged me to begin designing clothes as a profession. I am a self-trained designer.
APiF: What is your vision for your label?
Bélya: I envision my label carving out a niche for itself in the fashion world as mainstream explosively unique products that complement your projected personality. We’re fun and we think fun is cool and desired by everyone. Meeting the needs of individuality and community through fashion.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Bélya: Our marketing approach is our generations take on grass roots campaigning, social media. We use Facebook and Instragram directy and other sites indirectly through intermediaries, such as, bloggers and online magazines. We have to go where our audience lives, use what they use, understand, read, hear and watch and these are most effective at promoting our Brand. People wishing to purchase our products can do so by ordering through email via Facebook or Etsy (belyadesign). There will be a Belya boutique and Belya website opening soon both are currently under construction and projected to be ready by the end of January.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Bélya: Don’t be afraid to start. Create a small collection, 5-7 pieces. Sign-up and join networks, research and attend every market, show and tutorial you can. Knowledge is power. The most important thing is to create fashion, like Nike – just do it!