Fashion4Africa Digital International Women's Month 2021 Edition

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F A S H I O N 4 A F R I C A I N T E R N A T I O N A L

W O M E N ' S


When Women support women 'Magic Happens'

Born in Paris married to a Ghanaian; Jewellery designer Mathilde reveals how to use your heritage to create Adorable Sustainable African fabrics you need to buy D E T E R M I N A T I O N O F A N A F R I C A N W O M A N

N A D È G E B A L I M A Inspired by Africa,Made by Africans

03 Nadège Balima 09 Mathilde Kumawu 11 Daphne Kasambala 12 MassassiB 18 Karen Gold



2021 22 Nostalgia by Mona 25 Where's the 2019 prize? 26 Lessons Learned 27 Moving Mountains

Nadège Balima When did you think of becoming a designer? As a child, I’ve always been attracted to all forms of art, I liked making beautiful things and to me, dressing up was a way of showing who I was in a beautiful way. Professionally, I turned to a completely different industry (engineering) and fate brought me back into the industry by a series of unexpected circumstances. I decided to just go with the flow. How is the fashion industry and business climate in your market? It’s one that is very dynamic, requiring constant communication and staying up to date on the latest trends, colours, styles as well as always innovating to keep the customer coming back and wanting more. Fashion designing is a very competitive market to break through, what are your challenges? To me the biggest challenge is copycats. People who appreciate the originality of one’s work and instead of getting inspired by it will simply copy. When the copy is well made, it can become a strength for both of us as they may be attracting more interest and clients into the market, but when it poorly executed, this can represent a huge loss in the marketing investment already made as the client base can become confused, not knowing how to distinguish the original from the copy and devaluing the product altogether.

What can we expect from you in the near future? Innovation and a larger selection. Currently, we only offer fabrics from West Africa, but we are working to expand this selection to the whole continent and hopefully someday become the biggest retailer of traditional African fabrics in the world. We are also wanting to make the fabrics more accessible by working in collaboration with local designers and supplying quality clothing made from local fabrics. What best describes your style of designing? Traditional African fabrics, sustainable materials, innovating tradition. How do you put your colours together to create such unique designs? I normally do test runs of different colours and patterns to see what comes of it. Sometimes some colours we had never imagined together work really well with certain patterns. At times, we may also inspire ourselves or a cultural trend, a landscape or a particular event.

Mon Faso Dan Fani

Is there an achievement you are really proud of? I started selling from my apartment when I moved to Abidjan. With my multitasking abilities, attention to detail, focus on client service, the business has now grown to be represented in four African countries (Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Senegal and South Africa). We have received orders from corners of the world I would have never imagined, be it Norway, Brasil or even Canada. What kind of man/women do you often have in mind to wear your label? those who are proud to wear or use African made fabrics made by Africans for the world. I am happy when I can serve people who wish to encourage sustainable production of clothing, those who want to encourage African artisanal work and help it grow into something renowned worldwide for its quality and beauty. Which designer has been your role model & why? It’s difficult to answer this question as what I have been working on growing does not really have anything to model on. In terms of style, I must say Coco Chanel inspires my personal touch. Do you or have you worked with any African fashion houses or designers? if so which ones? Francois Ier of Burkina Faso.

Which African fashion designers/ fashion houses do you feel the world should know about? Francois Ier, whom I collaborate with produces high quality, men’s shirts from Faso Danfani fabrics (an African woven fabric). He is already well known within West Africa and I believe he is a designer that has a great potential to serve the world. I would also say Ibrahim Fernandez of Ivory Coast, he is also really well known locally but I believe the vibrancy and life that stems from his designs are just something the world should know about. What is your most coveted fashion purchase? My Camel Burberry bag for its pure simplicity yet class and durability. AFRICA & CHARITABLE WORK What was it like living in Africa right now? I am currently in Africa. & It is great to see the variety in cultures, trends, colours,... I love this melting pot where people are bold and are not afraid to express themselves.

In your opinion what number one issue do you feel is currently affecting Africa? To me, the biggest plague is the mentality of always wanting to be helped when things are going bad. It is okay to ask for help but I strongly believe in the saying that goes “give me a fish and I will eat today, teach me to fish and I will eat for life”. The fact that we are always waiting for aid money or for the government to do every little thing to solve our local and social problems is not helping our development move forward as effectively as it could. As a designer what do you feel you could do to raise awareness or combat this issue? First of all, being a role model and showing that one can achieve success with much hard work and dedication. I think by encouraging the local industry and entrepreneurs, as well as collaborating with other African suppliers helps us build a stronger local production network, create jobs and bear witness that Africans can achieve great things together. What is your vision for the future of Africa and why? I believe Africa is full of potential. The young population throughout is full of dreams and once the idea that entrepreneurship can be a successful way of leading life is adopted, I think the continent will be the next place to be in the coming generation.

Are you optimistic about this vision and why? I don’t know how long it will take but I am optimistic. Who is your greatest inspiration for your charitable work and why? My father. He is one of the most modest and selfless people I know. When it says in the bible (Matthew 6:3, NIV) “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” is exactly how he does charity and I really admire this. Oftentimes, the neediest people are those who are afraid to ask for help and helping them discreetly helps them preserve their dignity. ACHIEVEMENTS Which achievements are you are most proud of? My current situation: raising a child as a single mother while managing an international business and working a day job, but doing it like it is easy and loving every moment. What can we expect from you in 2021-2022? More new designs, more new collaborations with other African designers.

Currently, where is home, where are you based? I like to say I’m a bit of an international citizen but ultimately, home is Burkina Faso When you're not working what do you like to do? I love watching movies on Netflix, browsing Instagram and Pinterest for new trends, reading and watching personal development material. I love catching up with friends and family. Can you tell us something about yourself that most people would not know? In my daily life, I’m a trained Civil Engineer, I design water and sewer systems, and plan stormwater management. I used to own a mobile hair salon as a student to supplement my allowance. What is the wildest thing you have ever done? Drive from Ottawa (Canada) to New York (700 km return) for a shopping day trip with friends on Black Friday. Closing message to our readers? Love what you do, and do what you love. There is only one life so make sure at the end of it, your story is worth telling.

Mathilde Kumawu

When did you think of becoming a designer? Even as a child, I always had this sense, passion and hunger for creativity. But for the longest while, I couldn’t articulate what this longing truly was …Over the years, I learnt to let my creativity loose, creating, failing and recreating. Over time, my conviction grew stronger and I started to develop my own style and niche. How is the fashion industry and business climate? While it has been a challenging time for many businesses, I have observed some interesting trends caused by the lockdown. Last year, many of my campaigns were underpinned by physical events such as markets and fairs. This year, I have seen a tremendous shift in the way designers have had to engage their audience as customers have had to resort to shopping online.

What best describes your style of designing? If I could use three words to describe my style it would be ethnic, modern and chic. My style is very much inspired by culture. How do you put your colours together to create such unique designs? Whenever I feel inspired, I capture the moment on my mood board. Once my mood board is full, I take the opportunity to experiment in my workshop. The rest is about trial and error until I find my masterpiece.

FASHION Any recent collaborations? yes, I recently collaborated with 2 fashion influencers: @lababss, an African French model in Paris and @janetdavies, a fashion hair influencer that recently launched a brand in the UK called @ominaranatuals. ( Which African fashion designers/ fashion houses do you feel the world should know about? Sophie Deh – is a talented French African Fashion designer that people should know. Her designs are modern and use the Ankara in a modern style. The collection has a trendy French twist and the pieces are timeless. It’s beautiful! ( What is your most coveted fashion purchase? A pair of cute heeled sock boots perfect for the season!

ACHIEVEMENTS Which achievements are you are most proud of? I would have to say one of my proudest moments was to launch my own brand – Designed by Mathilde Kumawu. While it’s taking some time, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some incredibly talented and inspired people. It’s been a lot of fun! What can we expect from you in 20202021? I have a few new ranges and some exciting collaborations and events up my sleeves. Watch this space. FEATURE Currently where is home, where are you based? I currently live in London; I was born in Paris and I am married to a Ghanaian man. My fashion accessories are purchased and worn across the globe and so home is where my heart is. When you're not working what do you like to do? I am a real family girl, when I’m not in the workshop creating and designing, I like to go for walks with my family. I enjoy travelling and tasting new foods, all of these activities inspire my creativity. What is the wildest thing you have ever done? I once had the opportunity to test as a newsreader for a French pan African TV station.

Any last words/ closing message to our readers? I just want to encourage many in these present times that might be questioning their dreams. Every dream requires hard work, determination and support so you might as well want to do something you enjoy. Start small, stay focused, be consistent and your dreams will pay off.

Daphne Kasambala

As an African Diasporan working in Corporate and Investment Banking in London, DAPHNE KASAMBALA was seeking ready-to-wear African brands making modern fashion pieces with a touch of Africa that she could wear with ease every day at work and play. When she saw a gap in the market for this type of product, Daphne took the plunge and established Sapelle in 2012. A lifestyle retail brand offering contemporary African Fashion, Home Decor and Gifts products, Sapelle ethically supported and worked in close collaboration with its skilled partners from around Africa. After several years at the helm of Sapelle, Daphne has gone back to the drawing board, taking the lessons she'd learned working across the African value chain and seeking to address some of the structural issues she experienced as a retailer sourcing from Africa. In 2020, Daphne relocated from the UK to Southern Africa where she has spent several months in Kenya, Malawi and South Africa, gaining insights from creatives on the ground, and launching her new venture, Meekono,

an online wholesale marketplace dedicated to connecting small-scale African producers with retailers around the world who are seeking to buy high quality ethical and sustainable products. Recognising that many producers need support in becoming exportready and in meeting international quality standards, Meekono is creating a value-added ecosystem where producers can access tools and relevant market information and be supported along their growth journey. Despite the various challenges she's faced. Daphne has been ultimately determined to create businesses that build bridges from Africa to the world by offering tangible solutions that help creatives achieve success. Her ambition with Meekono is to create a global brand that puts African creative businesses firmly on the global map and is the go-to for creatives seeking to professionalise and scale up.

MassassiB New Styles at

When did you think of becoming a designer? I thought about becoming a designer quite late in life. Even though I had been thinking about it for quite a while, due to family commitments I put it on the back burner. Now that my kids are older and African fashion has come such a long way, it was my time to bring my ideas to fruition. How is the fashion industry and business climate?

Mrs Iyabo Ademosu- Massassi B

In today’s climate the fashion industry and business has taken a dramatic shift.

Currently where is home, where are you

Covid 19 has definitely made its mark


and with years to come the fashion

I am based in London, UK

industry has to make changes to suit everyone’s needs. For Massassi B, it has

When you're not working what do you

made me pause and think whether to

like to do?

continue with the business that I so

The little hours I have left is time for my

much enjoy. I cannot let this pandemic

family and of course me time. Me time

beat me.

includes a lot of movies and series. Can you tell us something about yourself that most people would not know? I am a scientist. What is the wildest thing you have ever done? Going to Jamaica for a holiday when I was 18. It was the wildest trip and I am surprised we came back in one peace.

Fashion designing is very competitive market to breakthrough especially with growing numbers, what challenges have you faced? I don’t even know where to start! Coming from a science background, my main job is research. Therefore, I would say research will show the challenges you might come across. Main challenges I found were funding, keeping to your goals and keeping up with my social media presence. Other difficult duties include becoming an accountant, multitasking, working long hours, having something unique and making it your own.

I love colours and mixing and matching different patterns and fabrics, however I do still try to somewhat minimise it. This is so it appeals more to customers, especially in the western fashion world, but still exudes the nature and colour of African fashion.

What can we expect from you in the near feature? Now, I am looking at much slower fashion and sustainability with the ethics of making garments. I additionally have the idea of producing outwear garments. I am also planning to supply garments to shops in both West Africa and Asian market as I am attracting a few tourists who purchase my Afrikimono in UK and take them back home.

What kind of man/women do you often have in mind to wear your label? Sometimes I do things back to front. I design and select my garment then I think about the type of person afterwards. I just can’t help it, I get too excited. It is definitely a mixture, I think about what I would like to wear but I also want acknowledge and include influences from my 21-year old daughter.

What best describes your style of designing? Looking for unique fabric, with a contemporary style of dressing that supports longevity. How do you put your colours together to create such unique designs?

Any achievement you are really proud off (winning award (s) ? Oh Yes, myself and my ex-business partner won first place in the Fashion 4 African designer award back in 2018. Our winning reward was a trip to Gambia which really heightened my interest in sustainable fashion, culture and quality materials.

Which designer has been your role model &why? That is a hard one, because I do not have any particular designers that I follow and it depends on what mood I am in. But to pick a few that I admire: I am loving the adventurous designs from Aisha Ayensu director of Christie Brown based in Ghana, Stella McCartney for her sustainable apparel and Maxhosa for his stunning designs on knit wear.

What are the pros and cons of working in the fashion industry? Pros1 8 You get to do what you love, and it is very fulfilling when you see the product from concept stage to when your customer is wearing it. You also get to be your own boss and networking allows you to mix with very interesting people. Cons Financially, you can make losses, you also need be prepared to work long hours especially during photo-shoots and fashion shows. The fashion industry is also very competitive and so your ideas need to be unique and new but still appeal to customers. Do you or have you worked with any African fashion houses or designers? if so which ones? Yes, I have worked with BJ from Pro7en. He designs formal men’s wear and is based in Nigeria. Any recent collaboration? Not with a fashion brand, but with a lady that produces beautiful greeting cards. Jean from Ionnamarie Designs used one of my low-neck red chiffon dresses with beading as a design on her card, do check it out! She loves fashion so hopefully there will be more of this in the future. Which African fashion designers/ fashion houses do you feel the world should know about? A lady called Chioma from Redbutton. She bases her garments on using Hyacinth plants produced from the river.

Sustainable fashion is her passion whilst also supporting the local community with jobs and reducing environmental waste. Chioma also support other fashion businesses with workshops of how to apply for grants etc. What is your most coveted fashion purchase? A pair of wine-coloured ankle boots. They are amazingly comfortable and so stylish that I can wear them on so many different occasions. I brought it for £8.00 on clearance.


Some of the proceedings from the sales also go to Violence against Girls (VAG)

When was the last time you visited

social enterprise based in Gambia that

Africa? What was it like?

supports women.

The last time was back in 2018 when Massassi B won the trip to Gambia, I

What is your vision for the future of

definitely made the most of it. There was

Africa and why?

no time to rest, from doing workshops to

Africa being the richest continent in the

preparing for Fashion Weekend Gambia. I

world thus my vision is to end poverty and

loved the local community spirit but also

for all African countries to be at peace.

know that the people are trying,

Wakanda forever!

considering the climate. I completely understand why it is called the smiling

Are you optimistic about this vision and

coast of Africa.

why? It will take many years and a miracle, but

In your opinion what number one issue

baby steps.

do you feel is currently affecting Africa? Hmm, there are a lot of important issues

Who is your greatest inspiration for

that I feel need addressing, but I would say

your charitable work and why?

poverty is the number one issue. We have

My parents, when growing up my house

all the resources and yet we have such a

was like a hotel. My parents would be

high percentage of poverty in Africa.

willing to help anyone in need.

As a designer what do you feel you


could do to raise awareness or combat this issue? Social media is the number one advert. MassassiB currently produces all its garments in Africa which helps give jobs to the community of tailors. This is Massassi B way of showing support.

ACHIEVEMENTS Which achievements are you are most proud of? I am proud of everything I do. Bringing up a family obviously is what I am most proud of but establishing a business alongside this is also amazing. What can we expect from you in 2020-2021? Do you mean 2021 to 2022? Obviously, Covid overtook that year, however working on more local produce fabric in Africa. Last words/ closing message to our readers? Firstly, thanks to Anna from Fashion4Africa for putting these questions together and for your support over the years. My advice to us fashion designers is that life is too short. Go for it, just stay focused. You are allowed to have a break but make sure you get back on the horse and enjoy.

Karen Gold

With no formal fashion qualifications designer, Karen Gold embarked on an adventure to set up her own fashion brand in summer 2014. Karen Gold who loves the London life where she draws some of her inspiration is of Nigerian origin. We caught up with her to find out how she is coping with the fashion industry, lockdown and her resilience. When you're not working what do you like to do? KG: Cooking, Movies & chill Can you tell us something about yourself that most people would not know? KG: I studied law not fashion What is the wildest thing you have ever done? KG: Travelled to china without knowing anyone there. What is your most coveted fashion purchase? KG: My Louboutin heels How is the fashion industry and business climate in your opinion? KG: Slow at the moment due to lack of events for people to attend hence less spending on clothes Fashion designing is a very competitive market to break through, what are the challenges? KG: Lack of real industry support and not being able to gain brand awareness through digital marketing as a result of high marketing costs


What are your aspirations for your brand in the near future? KG: Opening a boutique this summer

KG: Cons - High costs of sampling and Pros – You get to showcase your creativity

Who are your role models in the fashion How do you put your designs together to industry and why? create something unique? KG: Fashion Enter – because of their KG: It’s visual, whatever catches my eye and sustainable practices within their resonates with the design idea to be my production factory brand style ‘Classic with an edge. My ideal customer is a corporate person who is When was the last time you visited particular about what they wear, not Africa? necessarily follows trends but values KG: 2018, still very much the same from quality years ago Are there achievements you are really proud of? KG: An award of excellence awarded in 2019 and ability to build a fashion brand from scratch and stay the course without a fashion education and we just turned 6years old. what are the pros and cons of working in the fashion industry?

In your opinion what number one issue do you feel is currently affecting Africa? KG: Leadership As a designer what do you feel you could do to raise awareness or combat this issue? KG: Continuous training and awareness programmes

What is your vision for the future of Africa and why? KG: A place where we put out so much value that the world would want to associate with Africa either for business purposes or tourism. Are you optimistic about this vision and why? KG: Yes, however, it takes a collective of likeminded people who is your greatest inspiration for your charitable work and why? KG: African women - they work hard to fend for their families. Closing message to our readers? KG: Fashion is creative so feel free to express yourself through fashion.

NOSTALGIA BY MONA clothes don’t necessarily have to be elaborate or Avant-Garde to have an impact


What happened to the 2019 Designer of the Year? Did they go to Ghana? Was the prize honoured? We will tell all however let’s look at how the romance between Monalisa and Fashion4Africa began and its journey....... Monalisa Ncube, a Zimbabwean based in Leicester who attended the well respected De Montfort University registered for F4A Designer of the Year competition on 1st April 2019. At the briefing, it was very apparent that Mona as she likes to be called for short, was articulate and a true creative who enjoys doodling designs. In the briefing, she mentioned she often illustrates on bus or train tickets whenever and wherever her creative juice flows. Let’s backtrack to her fashion design ‘Nostalgia’ by Moniekcube the collection made for the 2019 competition:

Fashion4Africa: Can you give F4A a little explanation on designing the collection, how did you decide on the fabrics used?

Fashion4Africa: Establish the research that went into your decision making?

Mona: Research is a necessary starting point for any collection Mona: The design brief for the however for me it is the part of Fashion4Africa designer of the the process that never stops year 2019 competition requested because I am constantly looking that we design a collection that out for new trends or any reflects our country of origin, elements that may influence heritage or tribe while staying them. true to who we are as designers Fashion4Africa: With the For me, the starting point was collaboration with Global thinking of home (Zimbabwe) and Mamas in mind reveal research my heritage. As expected feeling fashion trends/forecast for homesick characterised by 2020-2021, so we establish ‘was tightness in my chest was the your intention for timeless result. I chose to use this as my pieces or to forecast’? inspiration hence the corsets. Mona: Research indicated that The bold and bright colours were Zimbabwe gets a significant taken straight from the Zimbabwe amount of its wealth from flag. My tribe was represented by farming cotton therefore the use the Ndebele tribal prints which of cotton or cotton blend Fabric luckily picked up the colours of was the most logical choice. the flag too. Some other fabrics had to be For this collection, my intention introduced for purposes of was to follow the brief as much as bringing interest to the designs possible in the decisions and (a play on texture and choices I made. monochrome contrast with taffeta) or problem-solving (stretch fabric for plus sizes).

@marg_yo Mona: For Colour selection the main influence came from two elements that were in sync. I gravitated towards the colours of the flag because they are all found in the traditional clothing worn by the women of my Tribe (The Ndebele of Southern Africa). The Ndebele people are well known for their bold and colourful geometric designs which they use on the walls of their homes. In recent years those designs have been printed on fabric n portrayed on beaded accessories. As a way to stick to the brief, I chose to use fabric with these distinctive prints to showcase my tribe and my heritage.

Even though my first attempt was elaborate bespoke pieces looking at past work by the sponsors (Global Mamas) I decided to tweak my designs so that they had the same tone. I was also trying to create pieces that could be used together. I wanted to make pieces that can be dressed up or down by adding or removing layers as a way of adding value to the collection. I hoped the dress worn by Julia Kengamu and the top dress worn by Stephanie Macauley would indicate this point. It was my intention to show that clothes don’t necessarily have to be elaborate or AvantGarde to have an impact. Sometimes it is all about the styling.

WINNING FASHION4AFRICA 2019 The judges, Anna Ellis, Benjamin Kitoko and Adebayo Jones unanimously agreed that Monalisa Ncube based on technical skills was far best the winner having the edge over Grace De Veer who was another favourite of the crowd let alone the judges. Monalisa was stunned not realising she had won which reminded F4A of a past winner Niki Moyo who was also unaware she was announced the winner in 2017. So.........did the trade mission to Ghana take place? Blaming it all on Covid-19 would have been the easiest excuse saving us all face, to be a perfect cover-up, however, it would also be a very tiny part of the truth. What happened is not a black, white, Asian or mixedrace issue – It was a human issue! Despite coming so close to the finish line of the challenging race Monalisa had a meltdown– pure and complicatedly simple! ‘A fear of what we can achieve with the World watching’ is within us all however, in some more than others thus procrastination, distrust, paranoia, negativity and selfdoubt sips in.

Bear in mind, an invitation to Ghana was provided by Global Mamas, Visa bought, flight tickets purchased, accommodation in Ghana to stay with the Global Mammas co-founder confirmed, although retracted when Covid hit the UK. Oh and let’s not forgot all the publicity expended by Fashion4africa for a good 12 months, but we still failed to make an incredibly talented, beautiful African Queen have enough confidence to believe and take that extra step to achieve what was rightfully hers! Fashion4Africa learnt a very painful costly lesson that we need to do more supporting our clients throughout their whole journey, by looking at the mental health, esteem and confidence of our service users. Our duty is to ensure that our African community have a platform to express themselves using their true identity to feel positive, feel worthy, inclusive and ready to achieve success in their chosen pursuits. Not all those that come through our platform want to be designers or models however they do want a safe and positive environment to experiment and grow. A place where they will feel accepted for who they are and not judged. A place they can look up or down and see the change they want to be and why!



"Achievements" Sponsored by Fashion4Africa Monalisa in her own God-given time will resurface to return to her brilliance meanwhile Fashion4Africa are embarking on restructuring to continue our ethos, to provide stronger support and engage in a wider network of industry experts! Images: L-R Irene Shelly Editor in Chief Black Hair & Beauty in The Gambia Jariatou Touray graduating Fashion4Africa shoot by Femelle Studios in The Gambia

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