All photos: Petit Pagne
Once in a while there is a brand made in Africa that really does the whole package right: I love the aesthetics of Rwandese fashion brand Petit Pagne - the branding is oh-so stylish! Super cute outfits, too, for example the frilly blouse or the fabric bracelet. Petit Pagne sources all fabrics directly in Africa from textile producers in Africa - a rare deal which in addition to providing jobs for tailors also promotes the local textile industry. Every since the masses of second hand clothes from the West have killed the local textile sector, local initiatives to revive it have been struggling. In Kampala for example, you can find a huge textile factory building - empty and abandoned - and across East Africa it doesn´t look much better. Cudos to Petit Pagne for not supporting imported copies of African fabrics but sourcing locally!
Photo: Vivienne Westwood Blog
Vivienne Westwood has recently been to Kenya to shoot her A/W 2011 campaign in the midst of the Nairobi slums with photographer Jürgen Teller. African Woman Magazine Sub-Editor Olive was there to help style the shoot.
Vivienne Westwood Africa campaign is also linked to a new line of accessories produced in Africa, sold here at Yoox. Can´t decide on our favourite item - we love these clutches and bag! This collection proves that not just charity T-shirts can be produced in Africa by African artisans. A way for the future, according to the ITC Ethical Fashion programme (International Trade Centre) which supported this project and runs many others around Kenya and Uganda.
This blogazine has been asleep for a while... a long little while, nearly a year. But that does not mean I have not been busy promoting African fashion & design! I resettled in Kampala for good this time and also shifted my work focus to Africa.
First I worked briefly as the editor of the young start-up Estate&Home, an East African interiors and real estate magazine. Then I got the wonderful opportunity to take over as editor at African Woman magazine. I had been freelancing there for the last 4 years and was thrilled to take on this new challenge. The magazine has been going for 5 years in Uganda with 47 issues to date. It is the number 1 fashion & lifestyle magazine in Uganda. Since its move to Kenya, 19 separate issues have been published there as well. African Woman is renowned for the quality of the photography and production, the contemporary take on fashion and the groundbreaking content about African Woman. Quite a daunting task to take on, especially not being an African woman myself. I was hired to bring in international magazine expertise - the content is generated by East African writers. For me, it´s all about creating a framework that makes sense for the target group: African women in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, mostly middle class.
Here I am with the publisher of the magazine, Sylvia Owori: a powerhouse in African fashion. She works as a fashion designer, fashion retailer (she runs her own shop in Kampala and Nairobi), event organiser (she used to run Miss Uganda) and model agent (she owns a model agency) ... truly a role model African Woman.
Gloria Wavamunno in one of her designs for SS 2010
On Saturday night, we went to the launch of Kampala Fashion Week, a project of local designer Gloria Wavamunno. The event was held at fashionable nightspot BodaBoda and attracted the local who-is-who in fashion and business. Unfortunately, the night´s special guest Ozwald Boateng missed his plane in London and did not show up, but the cool ambiance made up for it: hostesses on super heels, clad in gorgeous Gloria Wavamunno´s designs, ushered guests to their VIP tables, DJ Phoenix & musician Maurice Kirya provided the tunes. Kampala Fashion Week is to be held in October, showcasing local as well as international design talent. Watch this space for more info.
Read more about the event at http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/217/728889
10% discount for atelier africa readers!
An all-time favourite of atelier africa and winner of the 2010 South African Glamour "Women of the Year" award, Lalesso is now available online from the beautifully designed Lalesso website! All garments are produced in Kenya by SOKO, an eco and ethical clothing production unit funded by Olivia and Alice. Lalesso strives to use the talent of local artisans in any way possible: the coconut buttons are carved by unemployed beach boys, the beaded swing tags are handmade by Maasai beadsmen, the crochet is done by Zimbabwean refugee nuns, the brass embellishments are made the disabled people at the Bombolulu workshop and much more. Find gorgeous dresses like the "Cheza" or the "Pala" and the cutest Kanga-fabric ballerinas and much, much more at the new Lalesso Online Shop. Readers of the atelier africa blog get a 10% discount! Simply state the coupon code "atelier10" when filling out the order form and shop till you drop! (Offer valid until August 13th)
A few months ago, I typed in "Africa" into the etsy search engine and came across a beautiful leather weekender made in Senegal from out of afrika/Yoóbu . Impressed with the quality and craftmanship, I got in touch with Dorit Sade, the founder of "out of afrika/Yoóbu bags" and exchanged a few e-mails on our experiences with setting up a fashion business in Africa. Dorit´s company is growing fast: from a few fabric bags to a collection of different models, she is expanding her range and has now started with some branding like the photoshoot you see above. A young designer on the rise, here is what she has to say about her business:
atelier africa: How did your business get started?
Dorit Sade, Founder of Yoóbu: In 2009 after 15 years that I hadnt touched a sewing machine I started making baby slings back in America. I enjoyed it but didn't really feel like it was "Me", and it is very difficult to promote a product that you yourself can't actually use. (My kids are 3 now) Prior to my departure to Senegal I started thinking about branching out to bags but never really had time to devote to it.
When I arrived in Senegal I was blown away by the gorgeous outfits the women wore made out of Wax Print Fabrics. The colors are so vibrant and gorgeous and different from anything I had ever seen.
My big AHA! moment came one night when I was lying in bed reading a fashion magazine with a "Beach Style Must Haves" pictorial and I saw a really pretty tote bag. I immediately thought, "Hey! I can do something even nicer than that with all the amazing fabrics here!". The rest, as they say, was history. I wanted to share with the world a side of Africa that was not all Safari's and genocide, the Africa that is filled with color and vibrance, music and extremely talented artists.
I immediately started working on some designs and the set out to find materials. No small feat when you are in a 3rd world country and Google literally laughs in your face when you type in "Senegal - leather purse handles". The fact that my French is limited to "Hello, can I have one Kilo of ground beef" didn't make life much easier. I was very lucky in that I found my fantastic Senegalese nanny Mary, who very quickly became my right hand woman in sourcing and negotiating in the local markets.
atelier africa: Who makes your bags?
DS: The fabric bags are made by myself. For the leather ones I found a great partner in SEnegal: I met the very talented Mr. Fallou Seye quite by accident one day when I stumbled upon his little leather shop on the side of the road. I noticed a bunch of dusty old handbags hanging on a rack outside and after further investigation I realized that there was great potential in those sad little bags. After some discussion Fallou agreed to make me the leather straps I need for my fabric bags.
The big turning point in our professional relationship came one day when I set out for his store only to find it missing. The Senegalese Government had come late one night and bulldozed all the shops in order to facilitate the widening of the road they were on. I finally found him in a little shack way way back in the middle of nowhere setting up his little studio again. It broke my heart to see how someone's dreams and livelihood could be taken away in an instant and I felt this intense desire to help him find a way to rebuild his shop elsewhere. Fallou and I started brain storming and came up with a line of leather bags to be lined in the vibrant African wax print fabrics.
One of the days that I will never forget is the day that I returned from a Valentine's Market at the Embassy where I had sold a couple of leather bags. I went out to his little studio and put a few hundred dollars in his hand. His face lit up and he had the biggest smile and all he said in his broken English was: "Today is a good day".
atelier africa: Your bags feature African wax prints. What are they and what makes them so special?
DS: Wax prints have been highly desired textiles for more than 2 centuries and are an integral part of the vibrant culture of West and Central Africa.
The wax dye resist fabric originated in Indonesia, and was then taken back to Europe, the Netherlands specifically, by the Dutch VOC trading company. The wax prints were then exported to the West African colonies as a cheap fabric source, and since become synonymous with West Africa. What is so wonderful about the fabric is that the patterns tell some kind of story, such as proverbs, poems and traditional African fables. The colors also hold significance as they can represent social standing, age, tribal orientation and marital status.
atelier africa: How did you come up with the name and branding for your business?
DS: When I started out the business as Out of Afrika it was literally overnight and I never really had time to think about branding. I am happy to say that the reaction has been so overwhelming with our latest exciting development being the introduction of our bags into the http://www.moadsf.org/, where they will be available in the Museum gift shop!
I realized that I wanted to update the brand a little and make it a little more contemporary but of course retain the African flavor. After a lot of deliberation I decided on the name "Yoóbu" pronounced "YOU-BOO" which is a Wolof verb meaning "To carry". I thought this was appropriate on many levels since you "Carry" bags and this venture was instrumental in "Carrying" a lot of wonderful people.
atelier africa: What is your plan for the future of Yoóbu?
DS: Even though our tour in Africa was cut short and I am now back in America (with many suitcases full of fabric!), it is my dream for Yoóbu to keep on growing. As they say in Africa, "Inshallah" (God willing) in the future I will have the privilege of opening a little factory of my own in Dakar to include a line of clothing and woman's sandals.
recycled paper coasters
recycled paper bowl
sisal basket with Maasai beading
Some finds from around Kampala: these coasters and the bowl are made from recycled old magazines by Ugandan Youth, an organisation empowering young people in this country. We like the tag that reads:"By purchasing this product you are contributing to a fair and uplifting economy , helping the environment and helping someone to go to college. Enjoy them and remember the brightness of Uganda!"
The sisal basket with the Maasai beading are a great deco item. The garden table is also made in Uganda by talented local carpenters, the wood is called Mwule.
We came across these great pics in an article in the Telegraph. Andrew Bannis runs Royal Hut together with his business partner Louise Kay. Set up by the late Mary Vinson, Royal Hut specializes in making African cloth a modern interior decoration item: from bedlinen and bath towels to cushions, kimonos and bath robes, the products reflect the beauty of West African Textiles and show how contemporary African design can look!