African Fashion "It's Part of Our Culture": Meet Alphadi (Left)-Real Name Seidnaly Sidhamed Alphadi-The Pillar of the Creative World of African Fashion. as One of Africa's Best Known Male Designers, He Has Made Africa Proud in Europe, America and of Course Africa Itself, Climbing Many Hurdles on His Way Up. His Creations as Seen on These Pages, Are Breathtaking. Feriel Berraies Guigny Profiles and Interviews the Icon
Guigny, Feriel Berraies, New African
Alphadi is the founder of the International Festival of African fashion (FIMA), and is also the chairman the Federation of African fashion designers (FAC). Through his African fashion events and the biannual FIMA, he has always strived for the just recognition of African culture and fashion. His career, which spans 20 years, has been a constant struggle as he has fought to put African fashion in its rightful place--there among the best in the industry. An unrelenting fashion activist and a visionary, he has managed to introduce his fashion house into the inner luxury circle.
For Alphadi, Africa's creations are synonymous with richness and diversity. His creative universe is the sum total of his life, his multiculturalism and his human encounters. His couture designs are a faithful ambassador to African roots, but they also depict the best of pan-African design. He was born Seidnaly Sidhamed on 1 June 1957 in Timbuktu, Mali, of a Touareg father from Niger and a Moroccan mother, who were both traders. Growing up in Niger with his eight brothers and sisters, Alphadi discovered at a very early stage the fun of putting make-up on his sisters and mother. He would also spend hours watching Bollywood films admiring the work of make-up artists and how they would enhance women's beauty. But growing up in a Muslim country meant that fashion was an area forbidden to boys. His father wanted him to become a doctor or to take over the family business. After completing his baccalaureate, Alphadi chose to study tourism in Paris. Coming to Paris enabled him to get closer to the world of fashion. He started attending shows and taking evening classes at the Chardon Savard Workshop. At the end of his studies, he returned to Niger to work as director of the Tourism Ministry. Nevertheless, his passion for fashion did not diminish and he continued to hone his training in fashion design.
In 1983, he decided to devote himself entirely to fashion. Two years later, he created his first Haute Couture range, which he introduced to the world during his first fashion show at the Paris International Tourism Exhibition and it was a runaway success! Since then, Alphadi has gone from strength to strength. He now organises fashion shows in many parts of the world including Niamey, Abidjan, Paris, Brussels, New York, Washington, Quebec and Tokyo. He is also the proud owner of a number of boutiques in Africa, the United States and Europe which bear the internationally acclaimed label: ALPHADI.
In 1987, the French Federation of Couture and Ready to Wear awarded him the accolade of "Best African designer", which is just one of the many international awards he has been bestowed with over time. He also holds breathtaking fashion shows around the world, which without doubt set a benchmark for the African continent.
Despite all his success, Alphadi has never betrayed his roots or the richness of his traditions. His designs tell the story of a people--the ancient reference points of Songhai, Zarma, Bororo, Hausa and Touareg.
Here are excerpts of his interview with New African Woman.
What is the current state of fashion in Africa and what should we do? Do we need to kill some taboos?
I think African fashion is growing; we are now increasingly present at exhibitions and we are also at many fashion shows. The FIMA is a great arena. I also believe that African fashion continues to face some misunderstandings, because some tired cliches are hard to shed. Some African governments are not always very positive towards this industry and it is difficult to get funds for investment in this sector. Yet fashion is part of the culture and it is vital for the development of a country. It also underpins a positive image. I am convinced fashion creates jobs and that is why I continue to fight for its rightful recognition. This is more necessary because African culture is a culture of beauty; we must strive to protect it. …