Africa’s fashion industry is coming into its own on the continent and many African designers are becoming a force globally with bases outside Africa.
One is Adama Amanda Ndiaye, the designer and entrepreneur behind the brand Adama Paris. She recently showed her collection at the groundbreaking Dakar Fashion Week. Adama lives between Dakar, Los Angeles and Paris.
Born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, of Senegalese parents, she made her home in several international cities. This gave her a world view and a cosmopolitan edge to her designs.
She has also showed at Black Fashion Week Prague; Paris; Montreal; Salvador de Bahia, Brazil; and the Afrika Fashion Awards. Her clothes are sold worldwide. AfkInsider got a chance to chat with her while she was in Paris.
AFKInsider: How and why did you get into the fashion business?
Adama Paris: I borrowed money from the bank (where) I was working at that time. I always loved fashion. My parent didn’t want me to study fashion so I went into a banking career but I knew that I was going to work in fashion one day.
AFKInsider: How does being from Africa influence your designs?
Adama Paris: Being from Africa influenced my entire life, not only my design. I’m a proud African woman. Of course African fabric is something you can’t ignore when you grow up seeing your mom and aunt wearing those beautiful traditional clothes. So I use a lot African textiles in my collection.
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AFKInsider: How does living outside of the continent influence your designs?
Adama Paris: I’m definitely an African citizen of world! I like to think that I use the best of both worlds – Africa and Europe – to create clothes
Adama Paris clothes also reflect the spirit of young contemporary women. My design bridges cultures and walks along all women who refuse to be defined by one limited image too often controlled by one brand and one culture. I often use African fabric and European shapes
AFKInsider: Are your designs sold in Africa?
Adama Paris: Yes, in Senegal where I have two shops, in Cabo Verde, Ghana and soon in Ivory Coast.
AFKInsider: What do you think of the state of the fashion industry in Africa?
Adama Paris: African fashion is growing bigger and stronger, I believe the fashion industry will count on us in years to come! Africa is the future according to economists, and the future sure will include fashion
AFKInsider: When people think of fashion in Africa, they think South Africa. Do you think this is changing?
Adama Paris: What people? You’re probably talking to American or European people! South Africa is ahead in promoting fashion in Africa just because they have money, help from government and the same exact fashion magazines you see in Europe or America. So it makes it really easier for them to get attention compared to fashion in Senegal or Nigeria.
AFKInsider: What have been some of your major obstacles?
Adama Paris: Money, sponsors, investors. We learn to be more creative and find alternatives, for example for after 11th edition of Dakar Fashion Week we still struggle to find money…so hotel, plane tickets, food, buses … we try to get everything for free.
AFKInsider: Is it difficult for designers in Africa to do well?
Adama Paris: Yes, it is because of the lack of training, no help from the government for young designers. We need promotion of African textiles and designers by our government or help from investors to take it to a bigger level.
AFKInsider: How do you feel the global fashion industry thinks about designers from Africa?
Adama Paris: Not at all, they just being inspired by Africa… but giving a chance to a African designer is another thing.
AFKInsider: The African aesthetic generally is different from other parts of the world. Does that make it more or less sellable?
Adama Paris: It’s probably less sellable but I believe that not only one aesthetic (exists)! We can offer something different but still sellable. Asia did it so why not us?