Every entrepreneur has a narrative they want to tell. Adama Amanda Ndiaye is no different. Her passion for fashion and her yearning to make African fashion significant and visible internationally led her to found Adama Paris, a fashion brand. The name of her brand also serves as her moniker.
This has seen the Senegalese born and raised in Europe relocate back to her homeland. There, she founded her brand and created different events that promote African fashion both on the continent and internationally. She attained all this by deciding to stop her career in banking and plunge into the fashion space.
Taking the fashion route
Born in Kinshasa, Zaire, to diplomat Senegalese parents, Adama Ndiaye travelled to different countries during her formative years. She said, “They were diplomats who worked for the Senegalese embassy, so we travelled all over the world when I was young, to cities such as Paris, London and New York.”
The constant change of environment exposed her to different cultures and fashion senses. This further developed her passion for the industry. Despite her strong passion and desire to learn about fashion, her father insisted that she study a more stable and reliable profession. Hence, she studied economics and became a banker.
Though she obeyed her father’s conventional belief in a white-collar job, she was unfulfilled. She resigned from her job a year later without informing her father. Though her father was against her decision for a while, it was worth it as he eventually embraced her career path.
In 2001, Ndiaye founded her fashion label, Adama Paris, by incorporating her cumulative fashion experience while travelling to different countries with her parents. With this strategy, she creatively designed different trendy styles for contemporary women.
Her styles transcend African styles to include some street fashions of her favourite cities in countries such as Paris, New York, Tokyo and Dakar.
Promoting fashion in Africa
Adama Ndiaye believes that Africa has a long history in the fashion industry but has little or no audience. The lack of capital for designers further worsens this. To bridge the gap and create the needed visibility, she created Dakar Fashion week in 2002. The event promotes young African designers. Since its inception, it has showcased designers from Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. This became the first black fashion week in the French capital.
The success of the event opened different fashion platforms and opportunities for her. She received invitations to top fashion shows in countries such as London and New York. Despite the opportunity, she felt out of place.
She said, “I was frustrated. There were so few black models when I looked around, and I felt I didn’t belong there.”
This feeling, coupled with the desire to showcase her collections in Paris, led to her creating another fashion event in 2010, ‘Black Fashion Week.’ Ndiaye said, “I wanted to show at Paris Fashion Week, but no one allowed me to as it was very difficult to be invited as a young designer.
So I started to think about creating my fashion event, Black Fashion Week. Many other designers were facing the same issue. So I said to myself, OK, I’m going to launch my show.”
Launching the Black Fashion Week to her in an interview with CNN is a way of saying to the fashion industry, “….stop this discrimination, black is beautiful. I am sick and tired of seeing only skinny blonde girls, not black women, on the runway.’
She, therefore, tailored her event toward helping promote talented black designers and models that felt left out and not recognised by the global industry. She launched the event in the Czech Republic. The subsequent ones were held in countries like Paris, Prague, Montreal, Washington D.C, Geneva and Bahia.
She also organises an award titled Afrika Fashion Awards. This is now known as “Trophies of African Fashion” (TMA).
Integrating media into runway
With her success as a fashion entrepreneur, Adama Ndiaye ventures into the media industry. In 2014, she launched the ‘Fashion TV Africa’ channel, the first African television channel.
She plans on leveraging media to promote fashion on the continent. This is to be on par with ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and serve as a platform that provides opportunities for aspiring young models from the continent.
“We want to give [an] opportunity to young girls to go outside Senegal to model in Africa and Europe. This is going to be a big deal because it is probably going to start their career.”
There is also little coverage in terms of fashion in Africa, focusing on designers from certain African countries. “I want them to see us in Nigeria, Ghana, Dakar. I want people to see we have great designers. And that’s what I’m going to show. Africans wearing African clothes. Fashion made in Africa by Africans,” she concluded.