Mali-born fashion designer Alphadi has earned the much-deserved title ‘The Magician of the Desert’. His regal haute couture creations have graced catwalks and received much critical acclaim from Paris to Dakar. His beautiful gowns pay homage to the traditional flowing robes and beautiful, bold colours of the land of his upbringing, Niger, whilst being firmly contemporary.
Alphadi, who trained in Paris and the USA, has boutiques in Paris, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger, but he has always had his eye on the Big Apple. The grand opening of his Brooklyn store (Classon Avenue near Brooklyn Museum for those of you lucky enough to be in the neighbourhood) in January 2013 was the realisation of that ambition.
And the invitation-only event was heaving with well-wishers and fans, excited by the opportunity to buy ready-to-wear pieces from a designer whose haute couture garments price into the thousands of Pounds. And they weren’t disappointed by the range and depth of his opening collection.
In an interview with the BBC, Alphadi explained that he wants to be an example for other African designers and to prove that African fashion is not just about the stereotypes we’ve all seen countless times, but that there are so many different facets to it: from unique prints, to leather working, embroidery, silks, hand-dyeing, and embellishing that make it original and beautiful.
Alphadi has always been an advocate for peace in Mali, reinvesting earnings from his international fashion career back into his home under the banner ‘Fashion for Peace’. Alphadi was born in the fabled city of Timbuktu, an ancient trading hub, intellectual centre and popular metaphor for a mythical faraway place.
But since jihadists stepped into a political vacuum following a coup, taking a stranglehold in the north of the country, tensions have escalated into the conflict that is currently raging.
“The situation in Mali affects me deeply, I am Malian of origin, it cannot continue like this,” said Alphadi following his politically-relevant 2012 Dakar Fashion Week catwalk collection whose bright colours and occasional bare arms flouted the sharia law which has been enforced since the jihadists took power early last year.
Like all who love the arts and culture, we applaud Alphadi’s efforts to raise awareness of the jihadists’ stifling of all forms of creativity and independence in the culturally-rich Mali, through his Fashion for Peace initiative, and we hope and pray for a quick resolution to the conflict.
Through Fashion for Peace, designs by Malian artisans and featuring hand-dyed polished cotton known as bazin, Alphadi wants to unveil Mali’s creativity which he says should not be stifled by sharia. Alphadi is also the founding president of the African Federation of Couture and the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA) and is a fierce promoter of African fashion.
‘Our goal is to teach the young to love design and fashion, to stimulate black talent and to make black, yellow and white become one.’
Now with a 200-strong workforce, and the New York ready-to-wear store in place, we’ll be looking forward to seeing more of Alphadi’s creations in the mainstream.
Contributor: Daphne Kasambala
Credits: BBC Africa Today, AFP
Photos: Dakar Fashion Week