Letters From Africa – Designers Opinion Piece
2020 has been nothing short of eventful. With its many unexpected twists and turns it has been an interesting unfolding to witness, participate in and observe: COVID to #BlackLivesMatter and everything in between. Ironically enough, the aforementioned are still true, prevalent and have impacted the way we live, the world as we know it has changed, forever. As we look forward to the end of the year in anticipation for the new calendar year we hope for restoration, revival and a refreshing.
Africa: our home and beloved continent has been the centre of attention this year for so many reasons. The events across the continent were heartbreaking and they birthed social and viral movements such as #EndSARS in Nigeria, #CongoIsBleeding in Congo, #ShutitAllDown in Namibia, #AmINext in South Africa, #AnglophoneCrisis in Cameroon, #RapeNationalEmergency in Liberia and #ChildTrafficking in Ghana and The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. In all this we have been able to birth the beginning of a tangible and impactful resistance, we are hopeful for the change to come. As we proudly professed in June of this year during the peak of #BlackLivesMatter: “Silence has no place here” and we continue to shine a light, support and speak truth and power to the bettering and empowerment of Africa, its inhabitants and all its descendants in diaspora.
In light of this ethos we decided to reach out to our community of talented and trendsetting African designers (who are amongst the 90+ brands that will be available to shop from when our e-commerce goes live to our selected pilot shoppers in Q1 2021), for their thoughts and learnings from this year. It is important we cherish and are educated by those at the epicentre of movements, so as to understand how we can most effectively play our part. We share pieces from formidable women: Teni Sagoe of CLAN , Awa Meité of the namesake womenswear brand Awa Meité and Adele Dejak of the namesake jewellery brand Adele Dejak.
Teni Sagoe – CLAN – NIGERIA
“There’s so much I have been bursting to say about 2020 and we finally found an outlet for it all through our @clanrtw SS21 collection.
While working on the collection, I shuffled between the protest grounds at the Lekki Toll Gate and my office and so the Lekki Toll Massacre hit me hard. It’s safe to say I fully reached the peak of my frustrations on the 20th October 2020 and couldn’t seem to find a way to continue working on our collection after that.
We then decided collectively to escape to an era of black excellence and bliss in Nigeria (the 50s) and that brought about a sense of comfort and nostalgia. It felt like we could just stay there but then we realised 2020 was still our reality and that we had to share our hope. As such this collection, The Revival SS21 is borne out of a desire for a New Nigeria. We have used different colours and hues to represent the vibrant energy remarkably displayed by our youths in a time of chaos; and each of the looks in the collection has been named after a district in Lagos, so that we can all pay an ode to our Nigerian soil and remember that we are one. We also learned through it all that darkness truly only exists in relation to light and that we can harness light. The Revival SS21 represents to us a reigniting of the flame of Black Excellence. After all, we must all remember – #NoStressNoJollof ♥️”
Awa Meité – Awa Meité – MALI
“L’imaginaire riche de l’Afrique est une source d’inspiration inépuisable pour les créateurs africains et pour le reste du monde. Notre interprétation, notre projection de nous-mêmes, de la confiance que nous avons en nous mêmes et l’assurance que nous contribuons à la richesse matérielle et immatérielle du reste du monde fait prendre conscience que nous avons une place importante à occuper et à forcer les portes qui ne s’ouvrent pas a nous.
Il n’existe plus un seul modèle de développement, de penser et de voir le monde, comme nous l’avons cru pendant longtemps et comme le modèle dominant nous l’a imposé. Nous sommes dans une période de crise avec le COVID-19 et une période de recherche d’alternatives et de réponses, car le modèle que nous pensions universel et immuable a atteint ses limites.
L’Afrique peu être et doit être au cœur des propositions, car sa force sont ses peuples et sa capacité de se réinventer à travers la création tout en donnant du rêve et de l’espoir au monde. Elle doit être prête pour cette période ou des valeurs nouvelles et des formes de solidarité différentes apparaissent. La créativité et la mode doivent être au cœur de ce processus de réécrire notre histoire et construire un futur qui est a l’image de nos aspirations.”
Adele Dejak – Adele Dejak – KENYA
“The year 2020 has not only been a challenging year financially but psychologically as well. The pandemic has had drastic effects on all sectors with the fashion industry being one of the hardest hit. People had to change their spending habits and non-essential items were the first to go.
This shift in consumer spending resulted in a significant reduction in sales. The lockdown and social distancing also resulted in the cancellation of key events. As a business, we had to make some tough choices in order to survive the pandemic. Like most companies, my team and I switched to remote working. Being away from the workshop has been one of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make. We turned to technology for communication and I had to rely on tools like Zoom and WhatsApp to communicative my visuals with the team as we worked on a collection. I’ve also had to multitask more than ever and adapt to working with a smaller team. Through it all, I’ve learnt to be a bit more patient.
That said, the pandemic has brought to light some very important issues facing the fashion industry one of them being sustainability. Sustainability is very close to my heart which is why I made Adele Dejak and ethical and sustainable brand from the very start. I see a future where sustainability is in the front line of the fashion industry. Another lesson learnt during the pandemic is the importance of social media for brands and business.
We look forward to things getting back to normal especially now that we see some light at the end of the tunnel. We are grateful to our customers who kept buying even during the pandemic and our partners who stood by us this entire time. We look forward to people being in a better position to buy products they love as well as interacting with our amazing customers during events.
It has been a bumpy ride but we’ve come out stronger than ever. We continue making more affordable African Luxury accessories that touch people’s lives. Adele Dejak is more than a product, it’s a lifestyle and we are excited to share Africa with the rest of the world. While it’s been a difficult year, we expect the New Year will bring good tidings.
Notwithstanding all the challenges 2020 has brought we have been able to design and launch 2 collections in November. Ami II in collaboration with Bunmi of the brand @afrominima and part 2 pf Ami I AD hope collection was also launched which is a continuation of 2018 Love collection and 2019 Faith collection.”