It is Not “African Fashion,” It is Design!
Posted on February 25, 2015
I didn’t have many opportunities at home. At the time where I should have been preparing to attend a tertiary education institution in Burkina Faso I was discouraged by the socio-economic environment that plagued my immediate society. There were public issues at the time. With strikes mushrooming at the corner of every university campus in the country, I knew I had to get out – at least for myself.
The discipline I had exercised since the early years of my youth gave me the chance to leave. I don’t come from a rich family. So, because I saved, I could afford to pay for the first moments of my tertiary career, elsewhere.
I arrived in Paris at the age of 18, ten years ago. I, the bright eyed; bright styled boy from Burkina Faso, was quite flustered when I first “met” conservative France. She was colourless. Everyone was wearing black, blue or grey. Everyone who walked her streets seemed stressed and in a rush. Often, whilst taking public transport from where I stayed to the business school I had enrolled in, my smiles at unforeseeing travellers were met with blank stares back. At first it was frustrating. Then, it became the way of life. Reflectively, this might have been my first taste to what is now my constant frustration towards conformism. I hate it. It is with this inspiration that my brand De La Sebure dares conformism.
Fashion to me is an escape from rules. After completing my studies (with the financial help of internships along the way) I entered the field of Finance, working day and night in the La Defense region: the business district of France. In a world where there was no room for creativity, it was not long before I had to turn in my black, blue or grey suit, for the coloured pencils which mark my design pages. I am a creative first. I like to create things, not follow things. But I had to go through everything that I have gone through in life, to learn this.
As a black African designer based in Europe I have had to prove myself. This is a difficult, but not impossible. In general, there’s a discriminatory misconception that anything from Africa is mediocre: that it doesn’t have great quality. If you to ask anyone (players within the industry, and without) what African fashion is? Most would assume cutting up printed material to make a shirt – a dashiki. There’s more to it. There is a culture and lifestyle; there are textiles and patterns to considers; let alone pure and classic design. I am an African designer, but I am as much a designer from Africa as well. Changing this perspective in people’s minds is necessary. It is a fight that will take time to overcome. The more that people see of great design, that reflects on the interest of pop-culture, the more that they would be willing and able to accept “african” fashion into their own lifestyle. By continuing in my journey I am trying to change this. I want people to realise that it is not its not African fashion, it is design; just as much as it is not french fashion or american fashion.
I had a show in Brussels once. Working from home in Burkina Faso I received the clothing items from local tailors at the last minute, just before I boarded the flight to Europe. Upon arrival, at my first chance, I checked the pieces, and not all of them were up to par. Two days before the show I had to source a tailor in Paris to mend the work according to my designs and arrange for someone to catch a train from Paris to deliver the pieces on the day of the show. They arrived moments before we showcased. The reception was great, but that was an experience that I never want to relive in my career as an entrepreneur. The stress and emotions are just not worth it.
Showcasing at events gives me the opportunity to meet up with other designers, specifically designers from Africa. I am inspired by them. They also give me the platform to receive feedback from experts from the industry. I never studied fashion, but I have always loved fashion. To learn more, and grow more, I like to open myself up to their critique so I can better develop the brand.
People are turning back to the love of African inspired design. I am fascinated by this demand. To reflect wealth, people used to purchase clothing from specific brands from western markets, but now it is simply about expression – which is where De La Sebure fits it. The company is a menswear design brand that merges African traditions with European modernism. It reflects boldness at its very core: daring colours, textures and cuts. The De La Sebure man is an elegant, avant-gardist and could care less about hearsay! This is my inspiration of life (extrapolated from my history and experiences) immersed into my creation.
To the entrepreneur I would say believe in yourself. I delayed my journey by two years because of self-doubt! Ignore fear. It tends to disappear when you don’t think about it.
photo credit: De La Sebure