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Fashion in Africa: A spotlight on the Ivorian creative scene

By Sharon Camara

Oct 26, 2020

Abidjan - The release of Beyoncé's musical film, ‘Black Is King’, on Disney +, was met with overwhelming positive reactions. As usual, the artist was able to bring the public and critics together with her praised and original work. From the music to the choreography, not to mention the fashion, everything is meticulously chosen and presented. Speaking of fashion, Queen Bey has once again highlighted young designers alongside major luxury brands.

Among these designers, includes two Ivorian women: Lafalaise Dion and Loza Maléombho. One became known in 2018 thanks to her creations promoting the cowries and African spirituality, the other relies on local fabrics to enhance women’s style. In addition to their nationality, the two creators have another point in common: this is not the first time that they have collaborated with Beyoncé.

The rise of these two designers is a part of the growing Ivorian art scene which has seen increased momentum in recent years. From Dior with Uniwax to Marc Jacobs and Laetitia Ky, international brands are taking an interest in Ivorian designers and this trend is only beginning!

FashionUnited gives you a focus on three Ivorian designers who have been able to grow their work beyond local borders.

Laetitia Ky

At 24 years old, Laetitia Ky is an Ivorian artist who creates sculptures from her braided hair. With 354 thousand followers on Instagram and more than a million followers on TikTok, the artist won the Elite Model Look contest in the category ‘Digital Creation’ in 2019. She then signed a contract with the agency worth 50,000 us dollars, or 42,694 euros and more than 27 million CFA francs (the currency used in Côte d'Ivoire). Last July, Laetitia Ky teamed up with Marc Jacobs for her latest handbag campaign. The brand asked Ky to create three images as well as a video presenting her designs.

Laetitia Ky unveiled the images of her collaboration with Marc Jacobs on her Instagram account: “It was the Elite Model World team that informed me that I was going to work for Marc Jacobs", explained the designer to FashionUnited. “After learning about the brand's expectations, I thought about different ideas while waiting to receive the bags. The brand was very open and they didn't put any limits on what I could create. They were willing to let me express myself and the inspiration came very naturally. When I received the bag, I did all the work the next day in six hours and sent the photos," she added.

In addition to art and fashion, Laetitia Ky is committed to various causes including feminism.

Loza Maléombho

Loza Maléombho's career took an international turn in 2016. That year, pieces from her collection "Zaouli" appeared in the clip ‘Formation’ by Beyoncé. Since then, she multiplied her successes and she dressed other personalities of the Knowles clan (Beyoncé's surname, editor's note): Solange, her sister and Kelly Rowland, her ex-partner of Destiny’s Child.

"There is an awareness in the last five years in the African-American community that they are becoming more and more interested in "Black-owned businesses" and creating a bridge to the African community. We see it in music, in the arts and more recently in fashion. I was fortunate to be part of this wave of African designers that have seduced them," she told Life Magazine in an interview in August 2019.

Born in Brazil to a Central African father and an Ivorian-Ghanaian mother, Loza Maléombho grew up between the Ivory Coast and the United States. After studying at the University of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she worked in fashion in New York before returning to Abidjan (the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire) in 2012.

Lafalaise Dion

Lafalaise Dion's story begins with a strong attraction to cowries: "I think my passion for cowries was born at the same time as me. Since my childhood, I have always been attracted to cowries, to spirituality, which I called ‘the things I didn't understand.’ Unfortunately, I couldn't wear them or I didn't want to because there were preconceived ideas about cowries, they were demonised a lot.” In 2018, however, she decided to embark on this adventure after several years of research and documentation on the origin of cowries and their significance in African culture. Very quickly her creations travelled and she received orders from all over the world.

For the 27-year-old creator and journalist, this success story is also due to digital technology: "It's the strength of the internet and Instagram. I think it is also the case for Laetitia Ky. Social networks have allowed us, the creative people, to show our work around the world. Even though we are more likely to be plagiarised, it remains an incredible platform for exposure. There are no barriers, we are no longer in Ivory Coast or France, it is a space where there are people connected across the world. This space has also enabled her to win gold contracts: "It was on Instagram that one of Beyoncé's designers spotted my account while working on a project with Solange Knowles in 2019. This contact led to collaborations on two major projects for Beyoncé: ‘Spirit’ and recently ‘Black is King.’

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English.

Photo credit: Lafalaise Dion/ Beyoncé Youtube screenshot/Facebook Laetitia Ky/ Loza Maléombho website screenshot