Imane Ayissi is a Paris-based couture brand which celebrates African textiles.
I had a generous exchange with Imane Ayissi. I found a man completely available not only to share about his art but also to listen to your story. We discussed how he ended up immersed in couture and how he works to give back to his community.
His latest collection (at the time): SS19 Karralokga
We first went through the pieces he was exhibiting that day. Well-made textiles are definitely at the heart of his work. He celebrates their uniqueness as well as their complementarity. As we were going through some pieces of his latest collection at the time, Karralokga, I saw how he could create movement from a woven raffia fabric and make it spouse the silk fluidity. He enjoys shaping ancient African textiles such as kente cloth, manjak cloth or faso dan fani cloth. Karralokga was actually thought as a showcase of the diverse beauty of African fabrics to contrast to the common association of wax fabric as a representative fabric of Africa. In his use of these fabrics, Imane Ayissi tries to give the fabric the same importance it has or used to have in its society. His iconic kente coat shows it. For that example, he explained that he chose the kente fabric to make such impressive piece to translate the grandeur of that noble fabric formerly worn by the kings.
When asked about the Imane Ayissi women, he would describe her as modern, sportive, confident and aware of the world she lives in. I would have added a little something to that description: open to that world, definitely elegant, classic and keen on nice cuts.
Imane Ayissi does make clothes for men too, but only bespoke.
I am always very keen on knowing more about these African brands clientele as one of the major challenges these African designers-made brands are the customers. Are there a lot of people buying these brands? Who are they? Imane Ayissi explained that his clientele was mostly Western. He realises that the rich African clientele he could appeal to still seems to be a lot more into well-known international fashion brands better than buying brands from local designers. Such statement shows that there is still a lot to be done on the perception of African made brands.
Imane Ayissi is stocked on Lago54 website. He is also stocked at the Designing Africa Collective store in Nairobi. At the time he was about to come to Alara in Lagos and was still considering South Africa. I guess he does different pop-up stores too as he did in New-York this year.
We finally discussed his work with the Fashion Designers Center of Cameroon – Centre des Créateurs de Mode du Cameroun (CCMC) in French. He regularly hosts workshops with young professionals of the fashion industry in Cameroon to share his knowledge and experience of the fashion industry to help them succeed. He is a self-taught designer. He learnt a lot about couture clothing when he was a model. He learnt what to expect from clothes, he got familiar with different fabrics and cuts throughout his model career. Despite his successful journey through the fashion industry, he would always state loud and clear the importance of the studies to young african designers.
You can learn more about the brand here. Now, find some of my favourite pieces of his collections below