Imane Ayissi launched his eponymous fashion label in 2004 after moving to the French capital, Paris to work as a dancer and model with global brands such as Dior, Givenchy and Lanvin. He has since gone on to show at several international fashion weeks, including Lagos, Dakar and Shanghai. His designs have graced Hollywood celebrities, Zendaya and Angela Bassett.
He also has showrooms in New York and Paris, and his ready-made cocktail dresses, made from Faso Dan Fani (the national textile of Burkina Faso), can be found at Alára, Lagos’ answer to the iconic Colette in Paris.
In January, he unveiled his spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection as a guest designer, making him the third African designer to ever do so after Alphadi (Niger) in 2004 and Noureddine Amir (Morocco) in 2018.
In this interview with Business Elites Africa, Imane Ayissi talks fashion business in Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
I think it really came from all the beautiful and elegant women of my childhood and especially my mother. She was travelling a lot and was able to buy smart garments and accessories from Paris? She was really one of the most elegant women of Yaoundé. My first dresses were for her.
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Q: What’s your favourite part of being a fashion designer?
What I prefer is all the research part of a collection: doing researches about the concept, finding colours and fabrics, all the discussion with our artisan partners in France and in different African countries. It’s always an exciting moment, when the collection is still in your imagination, with the potential to be the best collection ever designed, and starts to become slowly reality.
Of course, I also love the excitement of the fashion shows, when my dresses come to live on beautiful models and are discovered by my audience.
Q: How did you get funding for your fashion business?
Since the beginning, it’s been self-financing. I started at the very beginning with the money I managed to save up. Now the collections are paid by my company activities. Every season it is a challenge, and I would need to find investors for the next steps of development of my brand.
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