Senegalese designer, Adama Amanda Ndiay has a dream; that one day, fellow African women will be heard boldly declaring their position and seen walking gracefully on international runways; with their heads lifted high in hope.
For several years, she watched the growing trend in the international fashion scene, and simply felt like an insignificant unit. She longed to expand the visibility of African design; to make room for more Africans to be seen and heard in the international fashion industry.
“I was really frustrated. When I looked around there were so few black models and I felt like I wasn’t belonging there. I thought it was right … to try to do something to help my own people and to get more exposure. It was not saying “them, they were wrong,” it was saying, ‘OK, we are here.”
To obviate this growing trend, Adama founded Black Fashion Week in 2010, to help promote the talented black designers and models that she felt were being marginalized by the industry. Paris held the inaugural event in the Czech Republic, followed by editions in Paris, Montreal, Geneva and Bahia.
“It was also a statement [to] the fashion industry, ‘stop this discrimination, black is beautiful.’ I am sick and tired of seeing only skinny blonde girls and not black women in the runway.” She tells CNN.
Indeed, for more than a decade, this purposeful Senegalese designer has been exhibiting African fashion to global runways and clothing stores all the way from Morocco to New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. And she has been doing a beautiful job of it. Each time, drawing inspiration from within.
“My designing process starts always with me,” she explains. “With what I want to wear; with what is in my closet — my style is multi-cultural, it’s eclectic, it’s the mix of my travels, it’s bold, it’s rocky, It’s African.”
Adama’ decision to create the Black Fashion week was also fueled by the success of her prior initiative; the Dakar Fashion Week, a popular event allowing designers from all over West Africa and beyond to showcase their colorful designs to fashion lovers and international media.
The banker turned fashonista was born in Kinshasa, Zaire to Senegalese parents, but raised in Europe, where her parents were diplomats. She also goes by the name Adama Paris, which is also the name of the label she owns and operates.
Despite her towering success and great achievements, Adama has no plans to take things slow; instead, she is willing to take even bolder strides and to explore new areas of business.
One of the most recent, being in the form of a new TV channel with a programme she describes as being similar to America’s Next Top Model. The idea behind it she says is to provide new opportunities for aspiring young models from the continent.
“We wanted really young girls and give them [an] opportunity to go outside Senegal to model in Africa — South Africa, Angola [and] also in Europe. This is going to be a big deal because it is probably going to start their career.” She tells CNN.
Her desire is to show the real Africa to the world; the strong, ingenious and bold Africa.
“I want them to see us in Nigeria, Ghana, Dakar. That was the purpose of this channel,” she says. “I want people to see we have great designers. And that’s what I’m going to show — Africans wearing African clothes,” adds Adama. Fashion made in Africa by Africans.”
For the African amazon, this is seed time; but soon, very soon, the field will become green, and then, it will be harvest.