●Tell us about yourself?
Good Day, thank you for this opportunity.
My name is Oumy Altair BA, I’m a young Senegalese women that recently created a clothing brand named Atelier Altair that sells abayas and dresses. I grew up in Senegal and Panama in family of six.
●What inspired you to go into fashion?
I have always been interested by fashion. Even when I was young, I’d always make sure that I liked my outfit and I would try to choose my clothes myself. Sometimes I’d cry if I didn’t like the outfit my mom picked up for me. I’ve also always seen my mom rock beautiful outfits even though she is a hijabi. My classmates would always tell me “wow you’re mom dresses so well” so that inspired me. Especially now that I’m a hijabi myself, I’m always trying to find ways to look modest and fashionable at the same time.
●What do you think needs to improve in the fashion industry in your country?
I think the fashion industry in Senegal is doing quite well. We have many talented and inspiring local designers. You can find different styles: modern, traditional, modest, daring… However, the fashion industry in Senegal seems to lack a structured organization that reunites all brands and fashion designers. More specifically, a systematized agenda that allows all designers to work together.
●Do you think the fashion industry in your country need a legal structure, if yes(why), if no(why)?
Of course, I think the fashion industry needs a legal structure everywhere. Law has a special place in the fashion industry. It’s not only about creating a business and marketing it, the identity of your business needs to be protected by laws. Also, whenever someone creates a brand it needs to be registered with the proper governmental entities. You may also need to apply for licenses or permits and comply with the requirements of your country. You have to utilize intellectual property law, such as copyright laws, and make sure that you’re running your business legally to be able to focus on expanding it.
●What is your favourite process in your fashion business?
My favourite process has to be choosing the fabrics and matching them. I love choosing the quality, the colours and comparing which colours go together and which don’t. It’s simply a very exciting process to me. The marketing process is also quite interesting as it’s a whole new world to me. Choosing the name of the collections, the logos, the shooting locations, the models… it’s all so new! I’ve never taken any marketing courses so I enjoy just trying it my own way and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
●What inspires your designs?
My designs are inspired by African and Muslim women around the world. Their strength, their class, their different styles! Abayas are mostly worn by Emirati women and the “wax” fabric I use in some of the clothes are mostly worn by west African women, so I tried combining both to bring those two worlds together.
●How have you been able to protect your designs?
As I was saying earlier, it’s important to ask about the different steps you need to take before creating a brand and make sure you’re respecting the laws of your country. I’ve taken those steps and I’m currently doing everything I have to do to run my business legally and focus and going bigger and better. The first step is declaring your business and protecting your brand name, logo and designs.
●Where do you see your business in ten years?
I truly hope that ten years from now, I’ll have multiple shops in various African capitals and continue designing creative clothes for women and men all around the world. I’d like to create more than just abayas for sure. I’m thinking about shoes, accessories, make up and what not?
●What is the place of fashion in Africa?
Fashion has a very important place in Africa and is definitely part of our daily life and our culture whether we’re aware of it or not. The fabrics, the designs, the different styles: the African continent has so much to offer to the fashion industry. You can see with the different tribe attires that there is so much diversity and beauty in our continent. We definitely have been inspiring the fashion industry for a long time, however African artists, especially fashion designers find it difficult to strive in the international market due to the way the industry is set up and difficulties we encounter in our continent.
●What do you think the fashion industry in your country lacks?
As I was saying earlier, the fashion industry in Senegal seems to lack a structured organization that reunites all brands and fashion designers. More specifically, a systematized agenda that allows all designers to work together. I also think that there isn’t enough awareness from sponsors and supporters to actually to fund new and young designers and that, unfortunately, contributes to the decline of many businesses.
●What advice do you have for upcoming fashion designers?
I would advise young fashion designers to take their time! Be confident in your brand but make sure you prepare for the worst. Unfortunately, the fashion industry in unpredictable and things don’t always go the way you want them to go, but that uncertainty makes things more interesting and exciting. It’s better to start small. For example, make one collection with 2 or 3 clothes and try to sell them to your family and friends and ask for constructive criticism. Regarding promoting your business: USE SOCIAL MEDIA and take advantage of the digital era as much as you can. Social media really makes things easier and allows to you to reach a broader audience. Be creative, confident and try different communication styles, people like that. Don’t forget to build relationships as well, go to fashions shows and talk to other designers and fashion enthusiasts!
●What other interests/ hobby do you have?
Besides designing I enjoy swimming, traveling and eating! I also like watching documentaries and keeping in touch with geopolitical issues.
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