Nigerian Adiat Disu wanted to combine her background in technology and marketing with her love for fashion and African designs. Adirée, the communications and brand strategy company she founded to connect designers from Africa with an international audience, has become the vehicle.
Adirée created the first-ever Africa Fashion Week to showcase talent from the continent for audiences in established fashion capitals like London and Milan.
One of the company's goals is to show that fashion from Africa influences the international industry.
"When we do Africa Fashion Week in Paris, we [will] have Parisian designers as well as African designers, who all relate to the continent, who all want to be showcased. We’re fusing the two. That’s what makes us unique," Disu said.
Founder Adiat Disu. Photo by: Robert Cooper/Courtesy
We asked Disu three questions about her work and what makes her company unique.
How did Adirée get started?
Adirée got started while I was in school. I have a degree in corporate technology and a double minor in marketing and information design. I always thought [about] combining both in an industry that I love. One of the things that I always thought was really special was the way Africans, specifically African fashion designers, were able to work with very minimal resources or the lack of resources to create something very beautiful and still be competitive. I knew that to go into an industry working with professionals, doing so many projects for clients, Africa was where I wanted to [focus] because of that [resourcefulness].
Also, I’m an African woman. I was kind of as they say “pushed by the wind” in that direction. I gladly went.
What is Adirée's place in the fashion industry?
A lot of people said, "What the hell is Africa Fashion Week? Is it in New York? Is it in Africa?" And I said, listen … Africa is everywhere. We are highlighting the fact that African fashion is something that not only inspires people on the continent or is of interest to people on the continent but it’s competitive globally. It’s something that influences the streets of New York and the streets of Paris. All of these fashion capitals are influenced by African fashion.
Adirée has created this kind of trend where people are understanding [that] by creating Africa Fashion Week in [global] fashion capitals, you’re kind of bridging both worlds. You’re allowing these business transactions to happen or to be built on platform that everyone knows and loves, which is fashion.
What makes African fashion different from Western fashion?
I think what makes African fashion different from other fashion is the sustainability. ... As much as we want to shy away from talking about the hardships and the economic disparities in Africa, at the end of the day it is still a developing continent. That’s not to say that the development of Africa isn’t present … and it is. So what I think makes us special is the fact that these designers, when they succeed, they’re naturally impacting their local community. They are teaching women how to be self-reliant and helping to develop their business skills by hiring them, helping them to create clothes. When you’re supporting designers from Africa who manufacture in Africa, it’s that sustainable impact that they are having. They are developing communities, allowing people to have jobs.
Editor's note: Portions of this interview were edited and condensed for clarity.