The fashion industry in Africa is steadily rising and making its mark in the global fashion industry and has become the inspiration for many well-known fashion houses.
One aspect of the African fashion industry that identifies it and sets it apart is couture – carefully crafted handmade, made-to-order pieces using the best quality of fabric and unique techniques.
The sartorial elegance of African couture has been displayed timelessly at traditional weddings, and engagement ceremonies, among some other traditional ceremonies.
Sadly, couture designers in Africa are yet to be given the global recognition and acceptance they deserve on the basis that Paris Haute Couture is the only officially recognized couture fashion week, coupled with the fact that a designer must own an atelier in Paris with at least 15 full-time employees and must present at least 35 looks in a show twice a year.
In spite of all this, one designer who has remained active, alongside other notable couture fashion designers in Africa, without being overshadowed is Ivorian couture designer Elie Kuame.
We caught up with him to have a conversation about his new collection and his journey as an ethical ready-to-wear fashion designer.
Hello Elie KUAME how are you?
Hello Patrick EDOOARD I am well thank you.
With the evolution of your career, how would you define Elie KUAME, TODAY?
Elie KUAME today, a work a very particular knowledge to make, the eyes turned towards the future, it is refinement of the sobriety. It is ONLY QUEENS WHO WEAR ELIE KUAME.
You recently launched your new collection. What makes this new collection so special?
With this new collection dubbed Transition, ELIE KUAME shows that it has gone a step beyond what it used to do. We wanted to show our ability to create beautiful images with sober lines, we wanted to show the craft … we have pieces for example that are handmade … we wanted to show that now we want to stand out even more as the brand we are today. We also wanted to do something different, but excellent, using the codes of tailoring, and adapting them to ready-to-wear to have a ready-to-sew.
I also lived a difficult period with the loss of my brother FRANCK FANNY. Transition is also a way of saying with Franck we had foreseen that and now it is the case.
You have dressed a lot of personalities like YEMI ALADE and now OLIVIA YACE, Miss WORLD AFRICA, how did this collaboration start?
We were connected two weeks before she left for MISS WORLD, but beyond that, what motivates me the most to work with OLIVIA YACE is the fact that she represents the hope that wants to fight, that is ambitious, that is dynamic, that is the African youth. There is a form of revolution of this African youth that she represents, and there is also a form of nobility that she carries, and that touches me enormously. She also represents, with dignity, our continent and her country the Ivory Coast and it is a pride and an honor for us to support her.
What is your opinion on the African ready-to-wear?
Today there is a new wave of designers who redefine things, you will wear PELEBE, STUDIO MADOCH, and Ibrahim FERNANDEZ, among others who know how to redefine ready-to-wear. They revisit the rules of fashion before creating their designs.
You also have concept stores like ALARA ABY CONCEPT SARGALE that value ready-to-wear.
If every African decides to buy for a sum like CFA 50,000 from each designer, I am sure we will get out.
I am also really proud of all this evolution of African fashion in its great diversity.
Elie KUAME in 10 years?
Elie KUAME will not only have stores in Côte d’Ivoire but also representations elsewhere in prestigious design stores. Tomorrow Elie KUAME will be a foundation that will train young designers that we will also hire. Tomorrow we will have an even more important ready-to-wear line than the ones we have now.
What is your last word for young designers?
You have to be armed to do things. I’m proud of them, I know they’ll go far, they need to learn from the best.
INTERVIEW: Patrick Edooard Kitan