Athandiwe Ntshinga

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Athandiwe Ntshinga

This week In Conversation series, we talk with presenter, soulful singer-song writer Athandiwe Ntshinga, known to some as Amara Fleur. She talks about travelling the world, responsibilities that comes with being a black artist, what it means to be woke, and of course, music!


What industry do you work in?
I’m currently working in the television industry at Viacom International Media Networks Africa, for BET Africa. I work in the digital marketing department.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
I am South African, Eastern Cape born and globally bred! Throughout my life, I’ve spent time living in Tanzania, India, New Zealand and South Africa through my parents’ work. They live in Hong Kong now, so I’ve pretty much decided that it’s also part of the roster!

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment industry. It’s always been a glamorous space on the surface, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve come across many people working behind the scenes. This part of the entertainment industry is like the little hamster in the spinning wheel; we keep the lights on so that everyone can enjoy themselves. That for me, became the reason why I thought it was a space I wanted to find myself in. During my time, I’ve learnt volumes; the extraordinary, the disappointing. I’ve had my fair share of “wow, so it’s not as wonderful as it seems” moments, but I have no regrets.

You’ve spent majority of your short life travelling around the world, how have you maintained true friendships along the way?
It’s been a real journey maintaining friendships. I have been fortunate enough to have friends that I can still talk to, but distance is definitely felt. I find that a lot of my greatest friendships last because we still have the same interests, even if I don’t speak to those friends everyday. I know who I can call when I reach their corners of the world.

How have you found transitioning back to life in South Africa as an adult after many years of living overseas?
It’s been a lot easier than I ever expected. I feel like I was mature enough to do it, as well. I came home with the mind to immerse and not look at myself as someone who didn’t live here for a long time. I thank my family completely for constantly allowing us to connect with home like we never left. There are still elements missing, but damn, I feel like I never left.

Where is your favourite place that you’ve travelled to and what makes it so?
I can’t really pick one. But I’d definitely have to say that recently it’s been Hong Kong and home sweet home, South Africa. There’s a quickness in the lifestyle there that makes me love it. Musically and culturally, South Africa is a goldmine, and I encourage anyone and everyone to visit any country on the continent for this. We’re the heart of the world for a reason!

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
If you’ve decided what career you want, investigate and stop faffing about! Knowing more about the things that build you is better than anything else out there. Oh, and learn how to save money, ASAP! You never know what you’ll need to do in 5 years time. Most of all, love your family. Love yourself.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
I’d absolutely change the fetishisation of black culture, as well as accountability within our communities. We need to be, and are definitely starting to be on the ball when it comes to calling out the appropriation of our cultures. However, we need to also take it into our stride to be ambassadors of our cultures. A lot of African talent are starting to be unapologetically African, and I love it. But there’s this boring aesthetic that’s starting to just look like an “influencer blueprint” - and that’s not what I’m talking about. Your Muholi’s, your Wanda Lephoto/Sartists,  Sjava’s (to name only a few) are doing it the way I imagine it being impactful, so I think we’re already on our way.

You’ve recently graduated, how have you managed balancing education, career and motherhood?
Honestly, it’s all been a choice. I think it’s almost similar to running a business, studying, and having a career. One of those is your baby, and it’s something you want to watch grow. I’ve learned very quickly that there’s nothing I can’t do. Sometimes it takes a little bit of reshuffling here and there, and family really come through for me. So, I thank everyone (both my son’s paternal family and mine)  for making it possible.

When can we expect an album?
I’ve been making a lot of empty promises, and for that, I apologise! Once I find the sound I’m looking for, that’s when I’ll know. I’m at a different stage in my life now, with new thoughts and experiences. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my journey justice by succumbing to the pressures of silence. But I promise you, it’s on the way!  

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
All over the world, playing a role in the education of how our cultures are aesthetic blueprints, but also being one of the many examples of how African youth are unapologetically becoming part and parcel of the creative space.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
I don’t think I have! That’s why I still don’t have an album out yet. *Hides* haha. But I think for the most part, it’s the pep talks. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and absolutely love what you see. Read what you write and tell yourself this is the best thing you’ve ever read/created. I try not to let negativity wear me down, and if it does, I remind myself how dope I am and keep it moving.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
“If you find yourself in a new space but making the same mistakes or coming across the same people that feed you nothing - you are not evolving.” - My sister. I’ve gotten amazing advice throughout the last few years, but this is at the forefront of my mind currently.

As a self aware, young, female, black artist do you feel you must take a stand on social issues and engage in the discourse that is going on globally? And how do you stay true to yourself through all this?
Absolutely. It’s essential to engage, however I also believe I can only engage when I have thought through what I have to say. Africa and Africans in the diaspora are already extremely triggered, and my experiences can also cause further trauma if I speak from a perspective that I assume will work purely based on being a young, black female. There are people who fit the same description who have experienced things that I could never fathom, and in that regard, I have no right to speak on their interactions with the world. So, when I approach social issues, I must fully comprehend what the conversation entails, and throw my weight into that accordingly. We can’t hurt each other more that what we’ve already had to endure.

What brings you happiness?
My son and family!

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
The only way to bounce back is to get back up!

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I’ve got several, and most are pretty much my peers. They teach me what I know. I don’t like to reach too far because sometimes you don’t have to. Other than that, East African Wave from Kenya, Sho Ngwana who create jewellery and amazing tee’s, Mo Matli, Rendani Nemakhavhani, Kgomotso Neto, the list is absolutely endless. I feel bad for leaving people out, that’s how long it is. Let’s have interview for that too!  

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
My parents are DEFINITELY going to read this, so I can’t!

What’s on your playlist at the moment?
A lot of local music (Team Mosha, Daev Martian, Buli, Mpho Sebina, Moonchild Sanelly, Johnny Cradle. This is also another playlist!)
Scorpion by Drake
KTSE by Teyana Taylor
Both Kadjha Nin albums
Same as above! A whole new interview is needed.

And finally, where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
As soon as my work is available, you’ll be able to find me on all digital platforms.

Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud

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Amy Iheakanwa

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Amy Iheakanwa

This week In Conversation series, we chat with the innovative and stunningly beautiful designer that is Amy Iheakanwa. She shares with us what it's been like moving her whole production to Nigeria, not believing in failure and the value of spending time alone.


 

What industry do you work in?
Footwear and accessories manufacturing.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
Howdy there! I was born and raised in Australia by my Nigerian father and Australian mother. I lived in rural New South Wales (NSW) for a chunk of my childhood, then moved to Sydney where I spent my teenage years and part of my adult years. I moved to Lagos, Nigeria over a year ago because my gut told me to. Currently working as the sole Creative Director for the SHEKUDO brand which started out in Sydney but redeveloped here in Nigeria where I hope to expand it, followed by the rest of Africa and then Internationally.

What was the biggest motivation for your career choice?
I love creating, I love personal styling and I am so proud of my heritage. The creatives are often the underrated people we have in this country. So I wanted to create beautiful things with my people in an industry that I love.

If you could be anything — besides being a designer — what would you be?
Well, I’ve worked as many things in my short albeit blessed life - a Pie Maker (first job at 14), a Retail Assistant, Merchandiser, EA, PA, Drug and Alcohol worker, Youth worker, Community Development Officer, was a part-time Lead Singer in a very unknown band - could go on. But if I could be anything else, I would continue working with young women in sexual health education which is what I formerly did for some time - or I would pursue acting so I could get a support role next to Bruce Willis or Jean-Claude Van Damme and have sneaky kisses. Or an architect (My star sign is indecisive Libra - can you tell?)

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
Stop chemically straightening your hair and cutting your bangs by yourself to look like the Italian babes in your class - it’s not for you (then again, I still cut my own bangs and I’m 28). And boys don’t validate your worth baby girl - they still don’t know how to wash properly behind their ears anyway. Gross

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
One is hard - 1. Colonialism and 2. Slavery - the weakening of states, fragmentation and so forth as a result, we are still healing and trying to find our feet in many ways. Independence for most of us wasn’t long ago so there is still a lot of (relationship) building between our people here and the rest of the diaspora to be done. Many have lost hope in Nigeria, but a new wave is coming. I feel like we should give ourselves more credit for trying despite our past and the current neglect from some of our leaders.

What advice would you give a young person aspiring to be a designer?
Look at what you’re offering because the market is saturated - how can you put a spin on it to make it different? What gaps need to be filled?

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
Hmmmm, I’ve got a white list from furniture makers, to photographers and performers.  However, I’ll go with Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie - authors are creatives right? I look up to her because of the way she tells her stories and how she can make anyone feel as if they were there, apart of it. I commend her for supporting made in Nigeria products and her ability to share her thoughts on feminism in a way which is unapologetic and unflinching (which isn’t always well received coming from a Nigerian upbringing). I also look up to Ozawald Boateng - his designer journey is brilliant - the man keeps reinventing his brand in subtle ways to stay relevant with what’s hot. Even if it’s not hot - he makes it hot.

Can you highlight the challenges and opportunities of sourcing and producing in Africa?
Yikes, there are many and it really shouldn’t be like this. But we have issues here in Nigeria with constant power - we just don’t have it - so sometimes jobs are delayed because the power goes off and then you have to rely on the generator which requires money for fuel. Then access to materials for shoemaking is often difficult, like lasts (shoe moulds) or heels, or leather - so you have to look at other alternatives. At Shekudo, we carve most of our shoe heels from wood because we cannot get a constant supply here in the market and importation can be difficult due to minimum order quantities of 500 plus usually. I prefer to be self-sustainable and utilise whatever I can source locally so I don’t have to rely on importing, hence why I focus a lot on using traditional fabrics (like Aso Oke weave) which I can design and produce here, locally sourced silver and designing shoes that don’t require hard to obtain shoe moulds or designs that can share shoe holds.

An issue with producing locally is our lack of modern machinery (most Shekudo products are made predominantly by hand with minimal machinery) and our workers maintaining good health. The chance of workers getting sick from diseases such as Malaria and Typhoid are much higher here than most places and it really impacts on productivity. As we grow as a brand, we are looking at workable solutions and ways to adapt.

Despite the many challenges, it is so fulfilling when it actually works and when you see the end product. I have a lot of love for Nigeria and I know we have a lot to offer particularly in the garment and footwear industry.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
1. Do the best you can and leave the rest up to God.
2. A river doesn’t need to urge people into drinking. It’s water, people are naturally drawn to it, providing the water is pure, free flowing and sweet.
3. A situation is only as difficult as you allow it to be.

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
Global. My first priority is always Nigeria and the rest of Africa, followed by Global domination. MU HA HA HA

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
MARNI or Traci Ellis Ross. Both are trend setters - both have huge personalities which is what Shekudo also stands for. I would also love to work with Yinka Ilori - furniture designer because of his bold designs. I would love to dangle which furniture pieces from my ears. Also, Simon Porte Jacquemus - fashion designer and Solange Knowles for a capsule collection.

What’s your biggest fear?
I have some niggling worries like everyone. Like losing our parents who are my heart, or not leaving a mark on this earth, but I’m trying not to plug into fear because it can be debilitating. Everyday I question my intentions and make sure I’m tuning into myself and doing what makes me happy.  It’s a process. I love to learn, I love a challenge and I’m trying to grow spiritually everyday so I can continue to take on life, free from fear knowing that I tried my best.

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Leaving the comfort of my lovely Sydney home and well paying job with busses that ran (semi) on time and constant power, to move to the chaotic city that is Lagos where I started all over again as an entrepreneur because it just felt right. Oh and driving around New Zealand on my own for 10 days sleeping in a tent on the roof of my car - that was fun.

What do you do for fun?
Life is fun. I am a big outdoors person, I love hiking, camping, anything got to do with water, live music, I LOVE dancing.

What brings you happiness?
All of the above. But mostly spending time with myself - I need it to feel whole. If I don’t get time alone I don’t get time to recenter and then I don’t feel right.  Nature keeps me sane, so regular beach trips and nature walks are necessary (which isn’t always easy in lagos where it’s all a bit of a distance away). Gardening, writing, singing, and I love warm, wholesome nights with good people, good food and wine where there is thoughtful conversations and meaningful interactions.  Finding the right tribe is important.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
I question the doubt and try to get to the root of why I am feeling that way. When I can identify where the doubt is coming from it’s easier for me to acknowledge it and then move past it.

What is the biggest lessons you've had to learn in your career?
1. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing no one else will feel confident in what you have to deliver from products to projects you’re working on.
2. Time is a huge factor in life, but Lagos has given me a whole new perspective on time. Creating enough of a buffer to deliver a product because the amount of hiccups that occur along the way are endless.
3. Just do it.

What is your biggest strength?
My ability to adapt and my ability to build relationships with people quickly.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
I don’t believe in failure, every experience to me is a lesson.

How do you think designers of African descent can gain recognition and prominence as other “mainstream designers”
Give Ankara a break (it’s not even African by origin), don’t get pigeonholed. Look at what other designers are doing - their marketing strategies, their websites, their audience and tap into that. The work has been done for us already, we just have to make it work for us. Everyone’s eyes are on Africa for inspiration so build your brand, build a solid story and grow your network. Sticking to a brand story is so hard but so important.

What is your favourite piece of art and why?
I don’t think I have one, I have many I love - but not just one.

Where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
They can head to www.shekudo.com to purchase. We do worldwide delivery, or they can jump onto our instagram @shekudo and contact me directly in DM.

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Ayan Makoii

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Ayan Makoii

This week In Conversation series, we chat with high-spirited Wellington based model Ayan Makoii, about living in the moment, pushing forward and not taking things too seriously


What industry do you work in?
I work in the fashion industry as a model, I am currently in my last year of high school at sacred heart college.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up and where do you live?
I’m originally from South Sudan but I was born in Gambella, Ethiopia. I moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. We briefly lived in Auckland before moving to Wellington!

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I've always wanted to be a model because I thought it'd be a cool thing to do for fun. However, Imogen Wilson who is my agent has been instrumental in my pursuing modelling seriously. She encourages me to give things a go in the nicest way possible and let's me know I have the option of not doing a shoot if I’m uncomfortable. Knowing that makes me feel secure and confident enough to step out of my comfort zone! Sometimes all you need is someone telling you to give something a try and with no pressure in you doing it.

If you could be anything — besides being a model— what would you be?
I would love to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher but not secondary I don’t think I have the patience for that. I would definitely teach primary and younger.

What advice would you give to yourself as a 10 year old?
Ten year old me - love yourself, step outside your comfort zone, it’s okay to be different and most importantly it’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to open up to people!

You recently took part in your first big campaign for Karen Walker Eyewear. Tell us about that experience (ie. how you got involved, what you learnt and loved about the campaign).
I had previously been up for a Karen Walker online store shoot. I think that’s how I got the Eyewear campaign. Imogen messaged me saying that they (the team) wanted to use me. I was so surprised! I really didn’t expect it; that was a nice blessing. It was a great experience to be shooting for such a renowned brand. In terms of shoots, it wasn't majorly different to ones I had done in the past. What I found challenging was the range in facial expressions required for the shoot. It was all head shots and for that, you need to show a variation in facial expressions. It was a real learning for me. I loved how nice everyone on set was. The team were very encouraging and always told me how the photos were looking. I found that helpful. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and meeting Karen was very cool.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
Poverty! It’s so sad that we are in 2018 and there is still poverty around us.  I don’t like to see people struggle or people be homeless. I think that as a society, if we could work towards ending poverty what a beautiful place the world would be.

What advice would you give a young person aspiring to be a model?
Young person! If you do not feel comfortable doing a photo shoot let your agent know. Do not get caught up in comparison. Also make good friends within the industry and do your best to be confident and don’t be so hard on yourself!

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I came across this girl a few months back her name is Mowalola Ogunlesi. She’s a menswear print graduate from Central St Martins. The products she makes are just so beautiful and very out there! That’s what I love about her, she doesn’t limit herself when she creates these really cool fits. I think that she is paving the way for young African creatives. Her recent collection is all about the celebration of black African male culture, sexuality and desires. It’s nice to see her creating something that would make some people uncomfortable and that I find it very inspiring.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
Sometimes you can’t capture the most beautiful moments and love always win! So love everyone even if they hate you.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know what I want to do next year so ten years time is so hard! Hopefully, I’ve come up as a model, been a part of big shows and campaigns while branching out and networking with different people. I would love to do something big with a charity for my home country.

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
It would be a dream to collaborate with Vans. I’ve always wanted to make shoes and vans is my favourite shoe brand so collaborating with them would be surreal.

What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest phobia is heights! I hate anything to do with heights. My hearts starts beating crazy fast and I just have the biggest anxiety about being high up.  Even with flights!

What do you do for fun?
Hangout with my friends and dance parties at school.

What brings you happiness?
My friends. I love all my friends so much I don’t let them know enough.

How do you overcome self-doubt?
With me, it’s been a journey. Some days my self doubt levels are very high and other days they are very low. The advice I would give is, surround yourself with good people who make you feel loved and appreciated because then you start to love and appreciate yourself.

What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in your career?
I haven’t had a long career but I would say don’t be late! I’ve started a habit of being late to things and that’s not good at all.

What is your biggest strength?
I would say not caring what people think about me is a strength. I’m pretty good at taking risks too.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
To just keep going and pushing forward no matter the situation. Always try to see the light at the  end of the tunnel. Also remain positive and definitely do not beat yourself up about failure because how else would you learn if you don’t fail?

What is your favourite piece in your closet at the moment and why?
I can’t decide on one. so here are a few ... I have these red track pants and they can unzip at the knee to be shorts. They are just the coolest pants and I got them for $8.50! Another fav is my lazy oaf pink tracksuit that I got for my birthday last year. It’s so comfortable and a bonus is the track suit still looks cool if I don’t wear both pieces! Another fav is my illegal civ brick jumper. I love the jumper so much it’s literally me in a clothing item. I don’t wear it much because I don’t want anything to happen to it!

Where can our audience find out more about your work?
You can find my work on The Others website and Instagram.

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A-COLLECTIVE eSHOP TURNS ONE!

Hooray! A-Collective  eshop is a year old and we owe our success and survival to you. 

What a whirlwind year its been! From deliriously launching on 31 May 2017, while in the throes of organising our biggest Africa Fashion Festival shows yet. As if that was not stressful enough, we opened our first pop-up shop in Wellington at the stunning Yvette Edwards Florist on Tory St in September. Consistent with our trademark, yet another charmingly chaotic moment.  Four months post go-live and barely two months after AFFNZ shows we had a brick and mortar space. What feat and madness that was! The highlight, seeing our beautiful community (both new and old) who have been on this protracted journey stopping by over the course of 3-days to shop and hear the stories of our mission-driven designers and artisans. That was heart-warming and tear-jerking for us. 

Lessons learned in the hustle? Hindsight is frankly a wonderful thing. We learnt a tough lesson in self-care. In essence, no amount of good will is worth sacrificing your health. No brainer, we know. Going live with a major project a couple of months shy of another major event? Not the wisest idea. Admittedly, we're a restless bunch with panache for self-inflicted torture but I say never again! Self-care is self-love ... our new mantra for staying alive. 

So, wherever you find yourself this weekend, raise a glass to our restless soul and survival in the fiercely competitive world of online fashion retail. Our beloved luxury multi-brand shop of ethically and consciously-made contemporary African fashion clothing and accessories held its' own in a world where fashion fast is king and slow-fashion is battling for recognition. 

We truthfully owe our existence to the unfaltering and continued support of our friends and you, our community for indulging our passion to bring well-made and socially responsible brands from across the Continent of Africa to your doorsteps.  To show our appreciation, all products in our online shop have 20% off. Visit the link and celebrate this special milestone by treating yourself or a friend to a gift from our shop. Use the sale code AC20 at the checkout. Happy shopping!

Don't forget to keep spreading the word! We want to do more to support our designers and artisans so they can carry on with the good they do in communities across the Continent creating jobs, revitalising and preserving traditional manufacturing techniques. 

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Lindo Khandela

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Lindo Khandela

Lindo chats to ADJOAA about the importance of positivity, dreaming big and her obsession with all things colourful.


What industry do you work in?
I am a visual artist.

Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. I moved to London in 2004 and I have resided here ever since. I am currently in my second and final year of my MA in painting at the Royal College of Art. I am a practicing artist, I also make hand painted false/fake nails.

What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I chose to become a visual artist because art is something that has always been with me, from a young age. I was naturally drawn to colours and patterns I observed in the traditional attire in my cultural background.

I loved looking at the illustrations inside story books I would read and I was generally drawn to anything that was colourful. From early on I really enjoyed drawing and painting and I knew that this was a career path I would pursue as an adult.

If you could be anything — besides being an artist — what would you be?
I would probably be a tattoo artist, a nail technician, or even a cake decorator. It’s really hard to pick one. Pretty much everything that I would pick as a second choice would involve art and design in some aspect.

What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
I would tell my 16-year-old self not to be so doubtful and scared. I would encourage myself to fully go for what I want and not let negative opinions deter me from my goals.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
I would end all suffering. Be it poverty, violence against women and children, illness... It all just has to go.

What advice would you give a girl aspiring to be an artist?
As cliché as this is going to sound, I would tell her it’s going to be a long and hard obstacle course but no matter what, she should hold on to her passion and never give up because you only live once so you have to make it count. I believe that everything you plant in the universe will come to fruition.

Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I am drawn to Nigerian born, California-based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby because she is very relatable for me. She is a woman, she has a dual identity (Nigerian, American) and she draws inspiration from political and personal references, much like myself. I really look up to her and she gives me hope, as a black woman, that you can make it in the visual arts industry.

What has been the best advice you've ever received?
My mother always gives me some of the best advice. Whenever I am in doubt she always reminds me to think positive and work hard and keep pushing on because nothing good comes easy.

Where do you see your work in 10 years?
I see my work occupying galleries, museums, and art collections. I also hope to expand my practice into other creative realms.

Who would your dream collaboration be with, and why?
I think my dream collaboration would have to be with a fashion designer — someone like Lisa Folawiyo. I really admire the prints and patterns in her unique designs and I have always wondered what it would be like to translate what I do with my art to fashion.

What’s your biggest fear?
One of my biggest fears has to be public speaking. Being that I am naturally a shy person I absolutely hate it. My anxiety gets the best of me, and since [public speaking] is a requirement in my field, I am determined to overcome it.

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
The craziest thing I think I have done was probably printing and proof-reading my dissertation two hours before the deadline!

What do you do for fun?
I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. I like going out to parties, eating out, watching documentaries, doing nails, baking, listening to music, reading, experiencing new things — new cultures — and just relaxing.

What brings you happiness?
Some of the little things in life, like a good meal, good company, a sentimental gift and money in my account lol!

How do you overcome self-doubt?
It is something I battle almost every day. But I’m thankful to have family and friends who always encourage me and I just have to keep reminding myself to believe in me because, if I don’t, how will somebody else?

What is the biggest lesson you've had to learn in your career?
The biggest lesson to date for me is to always trust my gut instinct and to not get caught up in what I think people want to see from me but actually do what I feel is right because you can never go wrong with something you firmly believe in.

What is your biggest strength?
I think my biggest strength is my patience. A lot of people tell me how patient I am and I think patience is a very important trait to have in the creative industry because things don’t happen overnight and you have to face 10 no’s before you get a yes.

Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
Failure suck and it hurts in the moment but 10 months down the line I can look back and thank God for that lesson because, I would know how to better deal with the failed situation if I had to face it a second time.

What is your favourite piece of art and why?
One of my favourite art movements is surrealism and my favourite piece would have to be What the water gave me by Frida Kahlo. I was about 11 or 12 years old when I first saw it and it just blew me away. I was not only impressed by her use of colour and detail but also by the narrative behind it. The fact that she was able to transform her trauma into these beautiful works of art is really inspiring.

Where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
You can find out more about me and my work on my website at www.lindokhandela.com I am also on social media, you can follow me on Instagram @khandelaart.

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A-Collective E-Shop launch

 

 

We are launching Australasia's premier online African Fashion aggregate platform today, Wednesday 31 May 2017 at 7pm NZST.


Yep you heard right! We are dropping the second platform of our Social Enterprise, ADJOAA, three days after the one-year anniversary of our first and much known platform, Africa Fashion Festival, following a sensational inaugural show in 2016. I will tell you more about this platform in our next issue. 

Back to the star of this newsletter. Our second platform A-Collective, an online retail channel bringing the vision of our Social Enterprise ADJOAA, a step closer to creating the First Hub for African fashion in the Asia-Pacific region.

A-Collective will provide fashion lovers and lovers of all things African in the Australasian region, a curated selection of ethical and sustainable luxury fashion and accessories by designers from the African continent. That's right! You heard it! We are bringing African fashion and contemporary accessories to your door step, so you don't have to travel thousands of miles to the Continent to find these ethical and luxurious treasures. So grab your debit cards and credit cards and engage in some guilt-free shopping when we go live at 7pm today. 

Why guilt-free? You ask? Because we are a Fashion for Development Social Enterprise. 10% of proceeds from every item sold will go towards our Social Impact Fund. A Fund we have established to create social good - to give back to communities in parts of Africa in partnership with our designers to support mentoring, education and internship. It’s early days, but we are committed to building this fund to invest in development in selected marginalised communities. 

This is what you need to know. All the designers we work with are committed to creating jobs in their home countries in the Continent, to support social and economic development. As a young African, I believe Africans need to own their development. What does this means? It means taking active steps to support ventures that equip our people with skills, create jobs to help address the high rates of unemployment, in particular amongst young people and women. Investment in infrastructures in the Continent that help advance economic and social development. It is one of the reasons why I embarked on this journey to support designers and artisans working in Africa's second biggest industry, the creative sector, to help stimulate economic development. 

How?  By providing platforms such as Africa Fashion Festival and A-Collective to support designers and artists from the African continent to access new markets, to generate more revenue, to increase their production, and by extension employ more people.

What's our value proposition? In a nutshell, we have chosen to partner with designers that through their work are helping to create jobs in their home countries in Africa, and are committed to protecting our traditional manufacturing techniques such as weaving, textile making etc., and elevating these techniques to a luxury level. What else, we work with designers that are helping to preserve and sustain artisanal jobs in the age of massive industrialisation. 

I think that's enough from me and the amazing team that have made this dream a reality. It's sounds cliché but as a bootstrapping nascent social entrepreneur, it has taken a community of people to bring this vision to life. So before I sign-off, I just wanted to shout out to my village of supporters and friends. 

Special shout to Michele Marius who has been relentless in her belief in me, a cheerleader, a mentor and advisor since the inception of this idea of creating a Social Enterprise. You are a real role model to me and I hope I can give and be a source of support to many budding entrepreneurs, and in particular, female entrepreneurs, on my journey. Another shout to Pepper for her patience and talent for designing a wicked website for A-Collective and ADJOAA. Sally Young and Jack Chapman for beautifully capturing each of the collections, and my dear friend, Yvette Edwards, and my Social Media Manager, Sarah Wong for assisting and giving their expertise at the shoots. Annelies Kuypers, Chido Dimairo (my surrogate sister) and Sarah for assisting with uploading the products. 

Enough from me. Now that you know A-Collective is a labour of love and that every purchase you make through any of our platforms is Fashion for Good, i.e. making a real impact in the lives of real persons and communities of artisans and not some greedy corporate purse. You have every excuse to shop up a storm! 

Next issue...... talk-party about Africa Fashion Festival 2.O.... start saving your pennies. 

 

Thank you for supporting this journey.

 

Love 

Pinaman

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In Conversation With MONAA

MONAA is a luxury shoe label founded by German born Ghanaian sisters, Afua (left) and Nana Dabanka (right). Living across different continents, Afua is now based in London and Nana works in New York.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

MONAA is a luxury footwear label which we created in 2013. Expert artisans in Ghana and Ethiopia beautiful craft our sandals from the finest globally sourced leathers. As a finishing, we embellish the sandals with ornaments reminiscent of our Ashanti heritage.

What is your creative process?

Our inspiration does not only come from Ghana but from the entire African continent. We select a theme for the collection and then translate the vision into colours, materials and designs.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

The motivation behind MONAA was to create a high end brand and we are fortunate to be able to produce in the countries we do. We strongly believe in the concepts of ethical and sustainable fashion. Thanks to the amazing work of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, who have taken on MONAA under their wing, this concept is finding increasing global reach. Hopefully, one day, fashion form the continent will simply be considered fashion without any extra labelling!

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Understand that the process is long and hard, so be patient but never stop pushing!

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

There is a lack of materials and resources, e.g. technology, equipment etc. Also, there is not enough access to specialised or vocational training which could not only increase the number of artisans but also their skill sets.

How do you give back to the community?

In a small way, we contribute towards local businesses and towards promoting countries in Africa as manufacturing hubs. As the brand grows, we are planning to have an even larger impact.

What’s your price range?

Our sandals retail between US$95-US$140.

Where can we see more of your work?

Our sandals can be bought online at Kisua (http://www.kisua.com). We are also stocked in both of Kisua’s stores in Johannesburg and at Elle Lokko (http://www.ellelokko.com) in Accra.

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In Conversation With Laurence Airline

Laurence Airline is a menswear label based between Abidjan and Paris. Their entire line is made at their workshop in Ivory Coast, where local people are trained to produce high quality garments.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work

I am a graduate from the French fashion school Studio Berçot. At the beginning, I was living in Paris and started to work for Mlle Agnes and Louis Vuitton. During that time I was offered the opportunity to create a small collection in cooperation with a factory in Ivory Coast. Initially, I was supposed to stay a month but ended up staying for 6 months creating my first clothing line for women. And that’s how it all began…

What’s your creative process?

We do not reveal our cooking recipes…

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical and/or sustainable fashion?

We aspire to create valuable products by using materials with a real story to tell. We are careful of our impact on the environment and make sure the relationship between everyone and everything involved in the process is good.

What’s your advice to aspiring designers?

Surround yourself with bright and competent people! Also, always strive to stay consistent in what you are trying to accomplish.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Africa fails to provide aspiring designers with adequate training in all areas of fashion and clothing. Furthermore, it is an incredibly challenging task to enhance the wonderful local craft workwhile establishing a sustainable fashion industry.

How do you give back to the community?

We create jobs in Africa, provide training and collaborate with locals.

What’s your price range?

$109.29 – $780.65

Where can we see more of your work?

Visit us online at http://www.laurenceairline.com

In Conversation with Nana Brenu

Nana K. Brenu founded his label, 1981, in 2012. The label expresses his quest for equilibrium between two highly contrasting genres of style. The first being his Ghanaian heritage characterised by vibrant colours and bold prints, and the second being his minimalistic design aesthetic which is influenced by modern art, design and architecture.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I am Nana K. Brenu, a Ghanaian born designer residing in Milan and the creative director of contemporary fashion label 1981, which I founded in 2012. I grew up in Ghana and spent most of my adult years in Canada, United States. I currently live in Italy where I had my higher education and training in fashion design. I am also an alumni of Parsons School of Design New York and Istituto Marangoni Milan. After obtaining my Master in fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, I worked for a small design studio in Milan for three years before launching 1981.

What is your creative process?

My creative process involves weeks of research based on a theme or idea that inspires me. My research for a collection spans across fields of art, modern design, architecture (which I am heavily influenced by), Ghanaian/ African culture, fabrics and colours just to name a few. From this, I begin to create the collection, exploring and developing design details and themes, colours and materials.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I believe fashion has to be ethical due to the large number of human resource involved, the impact on the economy, cultures and lives of individuals involved in  the design process. With everything becoming mechanised and industrialised, we are losing the human touch and the traditional craftsmanship involved in the design process, making the final product less personal and meaningful. It is our responsibility to ensure design traditions and traditional techniques are preserved and don’t disappear from history and is highlighted in the modern era.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Be sure it’s what you really want to do. Never expect success overnight and be ready to put in some hard work, long hours and have no social life. Always surround yourself with people smarter than you and who have had a lot of experience in all sector of the industry. Be open to constructive criticism. Most of all, believe in yourself and make sure you know when you are going down the wrong path.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Lack of education and infrastructure. There is also a severe need for technical skills and know-how which makes it challenging to produce in Africa. Compared to other countries, there is no support, government involvement or major institutions to increase the growth or help the industry thrive.

How do you give back to the community?

I work with local textile makers and designers who weave and dye fabric using traditional methods. This involves a lot of man-hours since almost everything is handmade. My work helps support these industries, emphasise their relevance, pushes them to be more creative and aims to modernise their process.

What’s your price range?

My price range is from €120 for a t-shirt up to €800 for a gown.

Where can we see more of your work?

Most of our work can be found on our website http://www.studio1981.com

In Conversation With Bohten

It is on the mountainous region of Kwahu, highest habitable place in Ghana that Bôhten began its journey. Nana Boateng Osei, Founder of Bôhten, had the initiative to use reclaimed material to manufacture an eco-luxury eyewear line. He draws inspiration from his Ghanaian roots, from his love of nature but mostly from his late grandfather Andrew Hanson Osei, who was Ghana’s first land surveyor in the 60s.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work

Bohten Eyeglasses is an Eco-luxury brand that designs and produces eyewear from reclaimed materials. It was founded by Nana Boateng Osei with inspirations stemming from personal style and nature.

What’s your creative process?

We’re very inspired by natural elements, retro/classic style and individuality. Bohten’s manufacturing process starts with ideas that are designed in 3D software. Once done, reclaimed materials such as bamboo, wood and plant based acetate is cut with CNC machines to our specifications. The pieces are then sanded down, polished, assembled and varnished for a beautiful finish.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical and/or sustainable fashion?

Sadly, fashion is one most unsustainable industries in the world. Bohten believes in igniting social and environmental change through our chosen processes of production, use of discarded materials, education in eyecare and the finally creation of opportunities in Ghana and beyond.

What’s your advice to aspiring designers?

My advice would be to develop a mission for their brand which is close to their heart and also build a team that is as passionate about your project as you are.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Some of the challenges facing the Africa fashion industry are lack of structures that can formalize the business of fashion and opportunities therein. Secondly, perception of capabilities to build locally and still cater to the global market; our own perceptions limit how far we can potentially go with an idea as designers.

How do your give back to the community?

We work with a charity called Sight Savers, they develop eye treatment programs for countries such as Ghana, Nigeria , Kenya and India. For each paired sold globally we donate 5 USD to their programs. The name of the partnership is Impact Of One. We hope to do more as the right opportunities develop.

What’s your price range?

Our price range is 120 USD – 750USD

Where can we see more of your work?

You can see more of work on our website http://www.Bohten.com

In Coversation With A A K S

A A K S was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of introducing the world to her favourite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, A A K S creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts characterised by bright exuberant colours.


Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work

I am Akosua a fashion accessories designer from Ghana. I embarked on my adventurous journey from London to Ghana in 2013 to start my brand A A K S after seeing a gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted bags. It was a truly defining moment in my lifeas I wanted to go out on my own and pull together all my passions and talents to create something unique that would be fulfilling – both personally and professionally. I embarked on my journey to Ghana to make this happen. I am motivated by family and friends and starting a luxury African brand on the continent!

What’s your creative process?

My design process is slightly complex but simple at the same time. I start by establishing a mood that fits with my clientele’s lifestyle and my design aesthetic. I seek inspiration by visiting my favourite places and exploring new environments through travel. I am an avid sunset photographer so I normally pick beautiful hues from pictures I have taken from travels which then form part of my colour palette. I draw my bag designs from photographs, historical and contemporary fine art, and fashion photography pictures which resonate with me and also architecture.

After drawing and deciding on a set of ideas, I take my design sheets with spec measurements, colour ways and finishes to my weavers in where I brief them about my inspirations and ideas for the season. Weavers also bring on board their ideas of technical know and how each bag would be executed. We then begin by twisting the raffia, we also dye the strands with organically certified dyes then leave to dry in the open sunshine. Preparation normally takes 3 -4 weeks before weaving can begin. 

Weavers then start making 3 dimensional shapes of my designs with critical attention to detail and and then we achieve sample shapes for the season. I bring the samples to my studio 12 hours drive away from the weaving community and start putting together finishes touches such as linings, trims, labels, leather handles and buckles. I go through each piece to approve quality and I pick the final pieces which is then presented as my final collection for a customer and then stores. 

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical and/or sustainable fashion?

A A K S is a purpose driven, lifestyle brand for the conscious and stylish consumers, who are willing to help change perception about made in Africa goods. Our design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts and design element which ensues from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in our production.

What’s your advice to aspiring designers?

I would advice any aspiring persons to start. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the planning of your business and sometimes it’s okay to know what you want and just go for it.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Building a fully African-made luxury brand presents tremendous challenges which my team and I are overcoming everyday. We struggle with infrastructure, simple things like poor telephone network, intermittent Internet connectivity and electricity disruption also poses a lot of inconvenience to our daily work. However, despite all these setbacks we are persevering and making the best out of everything and taking a competitive advantage when the need arises.

How do your give back to the community?

Through my work in Ghana, we impact the community greatly by providing employment to the local community and ensuring the continuity of weaving as an art/technique that can be passed down to the younger generation. We also encourage weaving to be valued as a major income earner for many in the cooperative. I hope that our brand will go someway in contributing to the revival and sustenance of weaving as a thriving art.

What’s your price range?

Mid range market

Where can we see more of your work?

In many unique stores around the world such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters in the UK and USA, Maison Mara in Cape Town South Africa, Alara in Nigeria, District Six in Germany, House of Satori in Singapore, Packing Man in Italy and also via my online webstore.

In Conversation With Sokona

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I was born in Bamako, Mali, to a Congolese/Malian mother and a Mauritanian father. I was raised in Belgium. I have a degree in Translation and I am also trained as a contemporary dancer which I did for many years prior to having a family.

Fashion came to life for me at a very young age – my mother who spends at least two hours getting dressed up before stepping out of her room every morning was a real inspiration. However, when I returned to London after not living in Europe for many years, I discovered the magnificence and explosion emerging both from Africa and African expats on the fashion scene. As an artist, I felt that it was doing a lot of great things for Africa. This was an excellent opportunity to show what we Africans knew about our beautiful and vibrant continent. Fashion can be used as a way to transform perceptions of Africa by showing its energy and modernity.

My partner and I started off making scarves, as we wanted a product that was easy for non-Africans to add to their outfits. We used fabrics like wax printed cotton, Kente and Kitenge mixed with silk and wool.

What is your creative process?

My creative fashion is based on women I met in the four different continents I have lived in. From Singapore to Addis, a lot of fabulously dressed and stylish women have nourished my inspiration.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

As a start-up it is more economical to have our designs made in New Zealand which is where we live. Yet, most of the African fabrics we use are sourced around the world as we are very aware of the importance of ethical fashion. We choose the factories that we source from and work with very carefully.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Find yourselves reliable and inspiring partners to work with – you cannot do everything on your own!

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

African producers face trade barriers with other countries, traffic and tax export duties often in form of bribes by officials from within African countries. This makes business very hard.

How do you give back to the community?

As soon as we have made a further step and gained more recognition, we would like to get more women back into the workforce by providing flexible and rewarding employment – both here and in Africa. We will do so by creating ateliers where all productions are made in-house.

What’s your price range?

Most of our creations are custom made and vary between $250 to $850. Our ready wear is between $200 and $450.

Where can we see more of your work?

Either on our website or on Instagram

In Conversation with Chido Dimairo

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work

My name is Chido Dimairo and I am an aspiring fashion designer. I recently graduated from Massey University after studying fashion design and have been currently working on establishing my label. I was born in Zimbabwe but grew up in New Zealand where I discovered my love for all things fashion.

What is your creative process?

I don’t have a creative process that is set in stone but I am constantly inspired by my surroundings. Anything from sights, sounds, smells and touch can kick start my creative process. I consider myself a creative hoarder and really enjoy gathering items from photos, trinkets and fabrics that I can refer back to later for inspiration. Recently, I have been very inspired by my heritage and childhood growing between Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I am a big believer in ethical fashion and want it to be a core part of my label. Looking into the future, I want my garments to be ethically produced both on and offshore in places where I can confidently assure the conditions and welfare of the production workers.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Every failure is an opportunity to learn and better yourself. When things aren’t going right, channel that frustration to drive you towards finding a better solution.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

Lack of infrastructure and recognition. African fashion designers tend to be put into a bubble and I think the global fashion industry assumes that the African fashion industry is unable to produce the same quality of luxury fashion. I think this is an assumption that many amazing African designers are disproving, as their works are being recognised and celebrated around the world.

How do you give back to the community?

Being a recent graduate and aspiring designer, I understand how difficult it can be to get your name out in the open so whenever I work on a project, I always try to work with other graduates and young creatives. I believe that there is an immense strength in numbers especially when young people work together to build each other up. In the future I want to extend this network and work with artisans and young creatives in Zimbabwe.

What’s your price range?

Pieces range from $150 to $600

Where can we see more of your work?

You can see more of my collections on my website http://www.chidodimairo.com

In Conversation with Diarra Bousso

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m Diarra Bousso, the founder of Dakar Boutique Group, a luxury holding company that houses my three brands; Diarra Bousso, Diarrablu, and Mint. I was born and raised in Senegal but spent most of my teenage years in Norway and subsequently in the United States where I did my higher education. I actually started my career trading bonds on Wall Street before pursuing my passion for fashion and development.

What is your creative process?

I find inspiration from revisiting works of the great masters of modern art. I’m especially inspired by the precursors of the cubism movement, Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Aside from visual arts, I also find a lot of inspiration from my travels and my academic background. The strong geometric focus in DIARRABLU line is influenced by my mathematics background.

What’s your fashion philosophy – ie. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

Ethical fashion is core to our brands.  All garments and accessories produced through our three brands leave minimal environmental footprints, we provide good working conditions and fair wage for our artisans. Our luxury brand Diarra Bousso for example, is handcrafted by our artisans using recycled exotic leather from the Karoo region in South Africa. Our Mint and Diarrablu brands are also ethically produced in our workshop in Dakar, Senegal.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Persistence is key. My advice to anyone who wants to be successful would be, knock on as many doors as possible and leave a positive impression. You need to know the why for what you are doing, understand your mission and be able to clearly articulate this to the different people you’ll encounter. I think having a great team is also very important. I wouldn’t have survived without my amazing team in Dakar, New York, Paris and Beijing.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

The main challenges I would say are but not limited to (i) the lack of understanding of the various roles within the industry – many people in the continent call themselves designers without really understanding what being a designer entails.  (ii) The lack of organization of the industry itself – the fashion industry is very complex with distinct branches such as design, manufacturing, PR, marketing and sales which all require thorough training and investment.Though the continent has strong talents within the different parts of the industry, the lack of organization hinders us. iii) The lack of support from our governments for the creative sector and creative entrepreneurs is stymying the industry’s development.

How do you give back to the community?

I launched the GEM (Global Education Movement) foundation before leaving Wall Street to empower women and children through educational opportunities. In terms of projects, we have succesfully provided training opportunities to women tailors in Senegal to improve the quality and efficiency of their productions. We are currently working on both formal and vocational training opportunities for young mothers and street children.

What’s your price range?

Diarra Bousso, our premium leather accessories start at US$1000. DIARRABLU, our contemporary womenswear inspired by geometry range between US$130 and US$380. Our affordable brand MINT, which targets a younger demographic and is priced  from US$40 to US$120.

See more of Diarra’s work at http://www.diarrabousso.com

In Conversation With Taibo Bacar

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m Taibo Bacar, a fashion designer from Mozambique in Southern Africa. I’ve been designing since 2008 and my aim is to take the Continent of Africa to the world through my work.

What is your creative process?

I don’t have a defined creative approach. I try to be in tune with my surroundings and that in turn influences how each collection shapes out. Inspiration for a collection can come from fabric I buy, an old fashion magazine or a woman I see on the street. I’m always alert to new inspirations.

What’s your fashion philosophy – ie. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

I have a great interest in ethical fashion. Most of the production I do is in-house in Mozambique where our workers are provided with good working conditions. When we outsource we visit the factories to see for ourselves the conditions the workers work in and how the clothes are produced.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Look into the world to learn from it but always stay true to yourself and your beliefs.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

We still have a lot to learn and discover and now I think the main problem is lack of materials and qualified and specialised technicians in the industry.

How do you give back to the community?

Our business create jobs for our local community and the taxes we pay also assist with developmental projects like building hospitals and schools.

What’s your price range?

Taibo Bacar produces three different lines. Our ready to wear range is from $50 USD – $300 USD. The high fashion/evening wear is priced from $450 USD -$2,800 USD and our bridal wear is from $3,000 USD – $10,000 USD. Most of the work of our high fashion and bridal wear is made by hand in house.

See more of Taibo’s work at http://www.taibobacar.com