It was a historic day for 51-year-old Cameroon-born Imane Ayissi on Thursday the 23rd day of January, 2020, as he became the first African fashion designer from sub-Saharan Africa to showcase his work on the prestigious Paris Haute Couture Catwalk in France.
It is worthy to note that the Haute Couture Catwalk has some very strict criteria before a fashion brand can be featured in the show. This is why only a few luxury brands like Givenchy and Christian Dior can boast of being featured brands in this prestigious show. One other criterion is that each of the clothes that will be featured must be entirely handcrafted. In other words, the use of machines is forbidden.
Furthermore, each of the items on display must be captivating enough to attract the attention – and purse strings – of rich, famous and powerful women from all of the world, who grace these shows with their presence and their class.
For Ayissi, his participation in this year’s Haute Couture Catwalk is a win for himself and for Africa. As an individual who tries to challenge and correct colonial imprints in modern African fashion, Ayissi consciously avoids making use of Dutch wax.
This is because he sees such fabric as rooted in colonialism which – as far as he is concerned – is “killing Africa’s heritage”. This is why in his search to discover what he describes as “a new path for Africa” and an “alternative way of doing luxury fashion”, he makes use of indigenous materials like Kente, beaten tree bark, raffia and silk pieces from different parts of the African continent to create his artistic designs.