It’s officially a revolution in the United States of America. And this one involves our beautiful African-American ladies, but we may extend that term to all “black” women in the United States, including Africans (non-Americans). A new wave is sweeping our ladies and it’s called “The Big Chop.” Continue reading
For some people, wearing an African dashiki is a tradition in Black History Month. This probably is the reason why dashiki sales soar so high during February. Dashikis are directly associated with Africa, and instantly recognizable as an African look. In Nigeria and many other African countries, dashikis are worn for comfort in the hot climate. In America, the African dashiki sends its own message.
What is a dashiki?
A dashiki is a colorful garment that covers the top half of the body. The dashiki found a market in America during the Black cultural and political struggles in the 1960s. The dashiki rebelled against men’s fashions of that time: brightly colored instead of drab, loose instead of tight, worn outside the pants instead of tucked in. It could be worn defiantly on occasions that normally would call for a coat and tie.
The dashiki was worn as a way to protest society’ s disrespect for African Americans. It was a symbol of affirmation, it stood for “black is beautiful,” and signaled a return to African roots, and insistence on full rights in American society.
The militancy of the 1960s may have faded, but the dashiki has not. It still serves as a symbol of Africanness within American culture, especially during Kwanzaa and Black History Month. It is also sometimes worn as a high fashion look or just a colorful, comfortable shirt for all occasions.
Dashiki is a Yoruba word that means shirt. The cap worn with a dashiki is call a kufi. Sokoto is the Yoruba word for trousers, and is worn with a dashiki. They are not named after the city of Sokoto, in Nigeria.
The dashiki in the West
The dashiki found a market in America during the Black cultural and political struggles in the 1960s. A prototype was developed in 1967 by Jason Benning, Milton Clarke, Howard Davis, and William Smith. These young professionals formed a company called New Breed to produce dashikis. It was located in a 2-room clothing store at 147th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in the Harlem section of Manhattan. Articles on New Breed appeared in Ebony Magazine and the New York Times (4/20/69).
The informal version is a traditional print or embroidered dashiki. Three formal versions exist. The first type, consists of a dashiki, sokoto (drawstring trousers), and a matching kufi. This style is called a dashiki suit or dashiki trouser set and it is the attire worn by most grooms during wedding ceremonies. The second version consists of an ankle length shirt, matching kufi, and sokoto. The second style is called a robe or Senegalese kaftan. The third type, is usually only worn by Tribal chiefs, Nigerians, or Muslims, and it consists of a dashiki, and matching trousers. A flowing gown is worn over these. This type is called a Grand boubou in various Francophone countries. In the English speaking world, it is called an Agbada, see the Grand boubou article for further information.
There are several different styles of dashiki suits available from clothing stores. The type of shirt included in the set determines the name. The traditional dashiki suit includes a thigh length shirt. The short sleeve, traditional style is preferred by purists. A long dashiki suit includes a shirt that is knee length or longer. However, if the shirt reaches the ankles, it is called a robe or Senegalese kaftan. Finally, the lace dashiki suit includes a shirt made of lace. A hybrid of the dashiki and caftan worn by females is a traditional male dashiki with a western skirt.
The dashiki today
Formal and festival dashiki styles are often seen on special occasions in West Africa. Perhaps due to immigration, the formal dashiki is also in common use in large Western cities. Many dashikis can be seen at houses of worship including, mosques, and churches and the dashiki is frequently worn at weddings, graduations, and other special occasions.
THE FIRST ANNUAL Taste of Africa Fashion Show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on May 19, 2012 will feature Spring collections from Congolese fashion designers, as well as African art and food. The annual event will empower African girls by sponsoring educational programs that teach sewing skills to girls in Africa. This year, the event will benefit The Georges Malaika Foundation’s School for Girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Created by Joelle Allen, fashion designer for iJo Fashions and wife of NFL veteran Ian Allen, The Taste of Africa Fashion Show will provide a way for attendees to contribute to educating girls in Africa while getting a taste of African culture: fashion, food and art.
Spring collections by Congolese designers Joelle Allen, Sandra Van-Keer and Marie-France Mumba will be modeled by famous faces including Noella Coursaris Musunka, founder of The Georges Malaika Foundation. Guest speakers will provide insight into the crisis in the Congo.
Allen watched her mother and grandfather expertly create clothing as tailors, paying particular attention to detail and fit, and was inspired to pursue a degree in Fashion design for herself. Allen would like to teach more girls sewing skills to impart a trade that would help them earn money to support their families and give them the flexibility to care for children at the same time.
“A seamstress has a different role in many African countries than in the U.S.,” describes Allen. “Rather than buying clothes off the rack in chain stores, even poor and middle class Africans go to a seamstress for custom clothes. High quality tailoring is more widely available than in the U.S.”
The cost for the event is $100, but currently sold for $85 (15% discount) at the TOA website (www.toafashionshow.com ). It is expected to bring a positive exposure for African businesses in the United States. Multiple sponsorship level oportunities are available for company/organization looking to showcase their brands/products during this wonderful event.
MARIANNE Ilunga’s love for fashion started at an early age. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she remembers spending valuable time with her godmother who was a dressmaker. She collected fashion magazines as a hobby and spent time sketching several styles she believed would eventually come to life. Her parents decided it would be a great idea to let her attend a fashion magnet high school. Shortly before graduation the Congo experienced some political turmoil, so Marianne accepted the great opportunity to move to the United States.
Landing in Los Angeles was the best thing that could have happened to her. Throughout her college years Marianne gained some experience as a fashion model for up and coming designers. In addition to pursuing her studies, she also held various retail positions in Beverly Hills, which ultimately landed her an internship at the esteemed Fifth Avenue Club at Saks Beverly Hills, California. Her myriad of experiences made her not only the go-to person for family and friends wanting to know the latest styling tips, but also propelled her to the next phase as a Designer Specialist at the Neiman Marcus Couture Department in Orlando, Florida. Her extensive retail knowledge, coupled with her keen sense of style, heavily influences her ability to mix high fashion and mass production. But this comes with years of hard work styling for her clients and for fashion shows. Marianne is fluent in French and has had the privilege to explore prestigious fashion districts in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.
Clients rave on the fact that Marianne’s creativeness and personal touch allows them to always look fashionable regardless of what they are wearing or where they shop. She always reminds them that it is all about how it’s put together.
Marianne decided to do fashion in the most rewarding way–helping women feel empowered, while looking their best. “Stylissima’s goal is to change women’s lives one closet at a time because I believe there can always be a new you,” she states.
Marianne holds a Bachelors degree in Fashion Merchandising and Retailing. She resides in Orlando, Florida with her husband and two children.
AM: Where are you from originally?
Marianne: I’m from the Democratic Republic of Congo
AM: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Marianne: 2 sisters and 2 brothers
AM: Who are your role models?
Marianne: My mother
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Marianne: Going to church on sundays, spending time with my family, working out, and shopping.
AM: Currently, where is home?
Marianne: Orlando, Florida.
AM: Can you tell us something about you that people would never guess?
Marianne: I think I can sing (Laughs)
AM: Favorite sport/hobby? Why?
Marianne: Running because it’s a total body workout and it gives me energy.
AM: Tell us a little bit about Stylissima, your Fashion consulting business. When did you start it?
Marianne: Stylissima officially started two years ago. I’m the only employee so far but I have people that freelance their services such as makeup artists or hair stylists. There’s also a few people that help me of with the personal shopping services when needed in Miami and in Los Angeles.
AM: How did you come up with the name?
Marianne: I was actually just brainstorming one night and thought of the name Bellissima,which means beautiful in Italian. I just added Style to it.
AM: Who did you work for prior starting Stylissima?
Marianne: I worked for several boutiques in Beverly Hills,California as well as retailers like Saks and Neiman Marcus.
AM: What made you start the consulting business?
Marianne: Women would always ask me what to wear or what to buy so I figured why not create a service that could provide the help they need.
AM: How hard was it to start your own consulting firm?
Marianne: It was very challenging because I thought that with the access to the Internet and all these great fashion magazines there was no need for such a service. But to my great surprise a lot of women responded well to it.
AM: Did you have support from family? Friends?
Marianne: My family and friends were very supportive. They actually were hoping I would open a boutique of my own and sell clothing, shoes, and accessories. I think God had a different plan. But you never know; that can always be in my future.
AM: How many clients do you service?
Marianne: I service about 10 women. What I do is very personal and time consuming. I spend several hours researching items and putting them together to create a specific image depending on the individual. I can only take a small number of people a week. I usually try to work with a maximum of 2 to 3 people a week. I also freelance as a Style Contributor for magazines. I usually have two photo shoots a month which involves creating a theme, picking out clothes and booking models. Depending on the time of the year I sometimes provide clothing stores with a Fashion Show to create a buzz and generate some sales.
AM: So, how do people use your service? What does Stylissima offer?
Marianne: People that use my services typically have a busy life or really want to change their look. The first step is always a closet assessment and then come the rest. It’s very important for me to see where they stand so I can take them to the next level. The shopping part is not always a necessity. Sometimes it’s just a matter of teaching them how to put it together. There are a lot of great items out there but they are not for everybody. I try to keep my clients look age appropriate but yet fashionable. Store owners use my services for Fashion Shows and Magazines use my services for their Fashion/Style segment.
AM: Who are your clients? How can prospective customer contact you?
Marianne: Mostly woman that own businesses and housewives with a busy social life. I also work with boutiques and magazines. Prospective clients can contact me by sending me an email via my website, my Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. They can also reach me on my business phone number which is 407 404 1136.
AM: Are most of your clients local? Do you get to travel?
Marianne: Thankfully most of my clients have been local. I do get to travel because some of my clients are always looking for things that are in Los Angeles, Miami, New York or Atlanta. So I try to do a trip at the beginning of every season outside of Orlando.
AM: What are your plans for next year for Stylissima?
Marianne: Wardrobe styling for magazines and giving fashion tips on blogs. I also plan on helping organization like Dress For Success which helps women revamp themselves and regain confidence in order to join the workforce. I’m also planning on taking a few shopping trips to Europe for clients that want to be very exclusive. One of my goals is also to work with women that are public figures in Africa.
AM: Will you expand? Franchise? Hire more people?
Marianne: Expansion is always an option. Franshise, maybe not. I probably need to hire someone to help me with all the social media I have to keep up with. Fashion is so fast paced I have to stay connected all the time.
[FASHION – Tips for Our Readers]
AM: What are the latest trends in the Fashion industry?
Marianne: The latest trends would be Spring/Summer 2011 for women are fashion safari looks in khaki and white. Soft and romantic floral prints, 70’s chic bohemian, very feminine dresses and suits(lace, eyelet,..)
AM: Does Brand name clothing important in Fashion?
Marianne: Basically, can someone still look fly while wearing retail store clothing? Brand name clothing are not important in fashion. It’s all about how things are put together. It’s nice to have great designer items but it’s not a must and it certainly doesn’t mean you are stylish! You can shop anywhere from Target to Neiman Marcus and still “look fly”.
AM: Then, what justify the high price tags on brands such as Armani, D&G, etc…?
Marianne: The price tag on designer items are high because of the workmanship and the quality of their fabrics. Some of these design houses have factories where people are expert at what they do whether it’s sewing sleeves or cutting patterns. Plus most of us know labor in Europe is extremely expensive. You will also notice that most designers now have a “cheaper” line like DG for Dolce and Gabbana or Armani Exchange for Armani. The price of the item varies on which collection it belongs to so that people can actually still wear their favorite designer at a price range they can afford. But people also need to start understanding that designer are also selling an aspiring lifestyle.
AM: People associate someone’s fashion look to his/her economic status/class? Is that fair? true?
Marianne: I think it’s true in some cases and I don’t think it’s fair. I’ve seen several people in flip-flops and khaki shorts spend substantial amount of money. Sometimes people are dressed in all designer clothes but they can’t really afford that lifestyle. Fashion used to have a trickle down theory which meant the rich start the trends and then the rest follow but now it’s a total different ball game. Fashion is accessible at all prices now clothing doesn’t have to be expensive to be considered fashionable or even mean that you are upper class.
Read the entire exclusive interview with Marianne on our Jan/Feb 2011 issue of ADUNAGOW Magazine. Get it Here.
Our girl CK is making her presence known in Hollywood’s celebrity list, dressing up the finest and newest actresses with her Christiane King Collection. I guess Project Runway 7 judges were wrong by eliminating this talented Ivory Coast lady from their show.
She is definitely a “must follow” on our list as she continues to impress celebrities with her unique fashion designs.
Lately, CK’s designs have been captured beautifully on actresses such as Terri Hatcher during the 2010 Genesis Awards, Chelsie Hightower from “Dancing with the Stars,” Australian Super Model and actress Sophie Monk at the Maxim Ho 100 Party – Looking hot with her CK dress! – lead actress of the television series “V” Morrena Baccarin, and the list goes on and on… Watch out, CK is hot and she’s getting hotter by the day. She’s on our radar for the next uprising Top fashion Designer to dress Hollywood top A-list. Keep it up Christiane.
Christiane King launched her first Womenswear Collection in the Fall of 2006 and is growing bolder since then. Christiane’s collections feature designs that are strongly influenced by her life experiences. Her signature layered and textured look result from the combination of her traditional heritage with the Western cultures she’s been exposed to. But “a woman’s body is my greatest inspiration” she explains. Her garments celebrate the arts and crafts from her Ivorian culture, but also maintain very modern styles and silhouettes.
Recently, Christiane had the opportunity to showcase her great fashion skills on the well-known show Project Runway Season 7, where she was among sixteen great fashion designers. unfortunately her stay was cut short when she was selected as the first designer to be eliminated on the competition. In the following exclusive interview, Christiane discusses her presence on Project Runway and what she took out of this experience.
Tell us Christiane, how excited were you to know that you were chosen to participate in Project Runway?
I was ecstatic to find out I made it to the cast of Project Runway out of the thousands of designers that applied. Having auditioned so many times, it felt like a dream come true.
How was the overall experience, meeting other designers and competing?
Being on Project Runway was a very stressful experience. Everything from being in a different city away from friends and family, to living with complete strangers, to the constant presence of cameras and having to create in a different environment where you don’t necessarily have everything you need to be your best. But I did get to meet some amazing designers that I hope to stay in touch with for years to come.
How did you feel when you were cut?
I felt robbed! I did not think I had the worst design out of the 16 designers. And I was especially outraged at the judges’ comments about my sewing ability. It almost felt like being accused for a crime you didn’t commit. It was not a good feeling.
Do you think you were eliminated too soon?
Yes, I definitely think I was eliminated too soon. I was confident that my design and construction were good enough to make it through to the next challenge, but obviously the judges didn’t agree. At the end of the day, I decided to leave with a positive attitude and grow from this experience.
I tell you, we’ve been watching the show, and we think you should have been there for longer. In your own opinion why do you think you were eliminated?
Thank you for your support. To be honest with you I don’t know why I was eliminated. I can only speculate. I like to think that as much as I would have loved to have the opportunity to show what I’m capable of doing, I was on the show for as long as I needed to be on and that’s why I got eliminate first.
Who am I to question God’s plan? I think some people would have been completely devastated if they were eliminated first, but fortunately I know there’s a difference between reality TV and actual reality.
I have also been fortunate to accomplish quite a lot on my own since my elimination. Much of that would not have been possible if I was still involved with the show. So perhaps it was all for the best.
What did you take away from this experience?
I think that this experience strengthened my view of who I am as a designer. It made me realize how much I believe in myself. I have worked really hard at promoting my work since I got back from the taping of the show.
I was not going to stop because a panel of judges didn’t like one of my designs on one particular day. That’s only three people out of 6 billion in the whole world!
The fashion business is very cut throat and you have to not only build tough skin, but also filter through all the criticism. I think I came out of this a stronger designer.
What do you think of the hosts?
I love Tim Gunn. I have a lot of respect for him and I value his opinion. I would have liked to work with him a little longer because he seemed to genuinely care for all of the designers.
As for Heidi, Nina and Michael, our interaction was brief and not under the most pleasant circumstances, so perhaps I’ll have more to say if ever get to meet them outside of the show.
Your dresses are everywhere! On many magazine covers. Please tell us some of the celebs that are wearing your products.
Yes, I have been very fortunate to have a few Hollywood starlets love and wear my designs. So far I have dressed LisaRaye, Jessica Sutta from the Pussycat Dolls, Kali Hawk, Katerina Graham from “The Vampire Diaries”, Chelsie Hightower and Anna Trebunskaya from “Dancing With The Stars”, Katie Gill, Olivia Munn, Lauren Maher from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a few others. It’s been a great honor to dress these ladies and I look forward to my next clients!
March is women history month: Please tell us:“ African woman______because______”
“ African woman is beautiful because she loves her body and embraces her curves”
Because I grew up amongst strong and beautiful African women who loved their bodies and embraced their curves, it became obvious to me that a woman’s body is to be shown off.
I always try to accentuate women’s best assets and I’m able to do so because of the wonderful African women I was exposed to in my childhood.
Thank you Christiane. It’s always a pleasure having you on our magazine!
Thank you! It’s a great honor and a lot of fun to be able to catch up with you.
Her dream started at an early age, 13 exactly. With the inspiration from her mother, Joelle K. Allen left the Congo in pursuit of her education in Europe. But her journey as a fashion designer bloomed when she moved to New York after getting married to former NFL player Ian Allen. Joelle then founded IJO. Design: Inspiration by Joelle, with the dot at the end of the logo representing a beauty mark. Indeed, IJO. is a true beauty mark in the fashion world.
What makes Joelle’s works stand out is more than just the magnificent collections she produces; it’s the fact that she is able to satisfy the desires of the numerous irritated women out there that are having trouble finding shirts that can fit them properly and stay “à la mode.” On top of that, she provides a customer service beyond measures for the price paid. Definitely, IJO Design is not just another fine clothing line, it’s a revolution. It’s a revolution that deserves to be talked about.
In this exclusive ADUNAGOW Magazine interview, Joelle K. Allen talks about her journey to success, her life, and much more. If you thought her clothing line is the only best thing she has accomplished, then you don’t know Joelle. Her products are outstanding, but she is amazing.
AM: How did you get started in the Clothing Design business?
Joelle: I was 22 years old when I got married. He was a player for the New York Giants for the NFL. When we met, I was in fashion school in the UK and he always knew that this is what I have always wanted to do. So, after we got engaged, I had to leave the UK and move to New York. This was a great opportunity that any young designer would love to have, especially with New York being one of the biggest fashion depots of the world.
AM: So, once in NY, how did you start?
Joelle: At first we didn’t have a clue on how to start in NY, let alone the fashion industry. So we turned to one of my husband’s teammates Michael Strahan, and he had a lot of recommendations as far as who to see in order to move in the right direction in the fashion industry. He was kind enough to give us his support, which in turn allowed us to meet some great people.
AM: Anyone in particular?
Joelle: One in particular is an outstanding designer, Dana Smith (CEO of Finn Creations) that was a blessing for us. He spent countless hours mentoring us about fashion and entrepreneurial things. He basically gave us a Master’s Degree on business…that is how much we spoke. I also met other instrumental people, a gentleman by the name of Portus Raymond a former designer for the Gap and Banana Republic.
AM: Was this what you dreamt for when growing up?
Joelle: Well my mother always said that she has seen something in me at a very early age. She was always trying to keep me out of messing the house up by cutting bunch of small papers and giving them shapes and drawing hair face and dressing them. But there is something that I remember loving to do as a child: I would cut small peaces of her fabric (She is a designer as well, so she always had fabric and patterns at home), and I would fill them with a bunch of cottons and saw them with a needle to give them girls shape. I would then use some hair extensions and saw them in their heads. After that, I would create different little outfits for them to wear; these were my dolls. I still remember the joy I felt making them. Back then, in my country kids toys were pretty expensive. I had toys, but not as many as I would have loved to have. So this was truly a satisfaction for me.
AM: So, that’s when your love of designing started?
Joelle: Yes. I actually realized that I had a great passion for it and that what I wanted to do. At age 13, I remember there was this girl in my class that used to draw amazing girl figures with cool clothes, shoes, and hair style. I remember saying to myself: “I really want to be able to draw like this.” I remember my first drawing. Everybody in my class, my brothers, and sisters laughed at it. But, that pushed me really hard to draw more and before the end of that year, I was proud of my drawing and everybody loved what I was showing them. And that is then that I decided to do some type of art. It was either going in Academy of Art or the fashion school. But the idea of me being able to draw clothes that I can actually wear was very exciting for me.
AM: So, which one did you pick?
My parents decided to send me in the same fashion school as the one my mom attended: ISAM (Institut superieur des arts et métiers). It is a High school and fashion college for girls only; the biggest fashion school in Congo and one of the biggest in central Africa. After High school, I pursued my education in a UK Fashion school, where I got even better at drawing, making sketches and designing collections.
AM: So, you were born in Congo (former Zaire), and at what age did you leave Africa?
Joelle: I left Africa for the first time when I was nineteen years old. That’s when I went to pursue my education in The UK, which was a great experience for me. I really love and enjoy traveling. Living in the UK actually gave me the opportunity to visit other part of Europe like Paris (where I got engaged), Belgium, The Netherlands and Others. I really loved Europe, and I enjoy it every time I go back.
AM: Who are your role models in the fashion design world?
Joelle: My mom. She is a very creative and hard working designer. She design clothes for very important personalities in Congo and has dressed numerous politician wives and ministers in Africa, as well as great regular women. I watched her tailoring to them. I used to dream to do the same and she has never given up on pursuing her dream. It wasn’t easy for her to get to that point, but she is a strong woman and an amazing person. She still amazes me until these days.
Also, Alphadi he is a wonderful African designer. The fact that he gives back to the community by giving other young designers a chance to expose their works along side with his great collections gives me a big level of respect for him.
AM: Tell us about your first project as a designer.
Joelle: I remember my first biggest project as a young designer. I was about 18 years old and I was working along with a great stylist from the Congo: Bibiche Nzolatima. We were invited to expose our work at Alphadi’s “La caravane d’Alphadi” show collection. We were very excited and I remember the first day checking into our hotel; we couldn’t wait to meet him. We got in the elevator and stopped in one level. A group of people got in and Alphadi was one of them. We wanted autographs and everything. He was just one of the most down to earth people and was actually happy to see us being so excited about being part of his work.
AM: So, how did you do?
Joelle: Our collection was presented in front of Congo Brazzaville’s president and his wife and other great politicians were there. That raised my confidence as a young designer just coming out of High school. It made me feel like “anything is possible. I can achieve my dream and I can do anything.” I will always stay grateful to him for that amazing experience.
AM: What’s a typical day for you?
Joelle: Well, I have three jobs that I do not take lightly: I am a wife, a mom, and an Entrepreneur. Lots of my regular days are spent in what I do: Fashion designs. I often have new designs in my mind that I put in sketches. I always try to stay creative, either by the clothes I wear or getting updated on what’s going on in the fashion industry.
AM: Do you travel a lot?
Joelle: Yes, I do a lot of traveling between NY City and Montreal as I have a team set in both cities for my fabric, photo shoot, and sample etc… work. Also my husband and I spend a lot of quality time with our two year old daughter teaching her the best things that we can. I actually teach her French.
AM: So, you speak French?
It is my first language. I would like for my daughter to be able to communicate with my side of the family back home. But, she speaks both English and French.
AM: It looks like you do get quality time with your family.
Joelle: I am very grateful to be able to spend a lot time with my husband especially. We are both business owners, but we still manage to do quite a lot together. I don’t take that for granted.
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Joelle: Traveling. I travel a lot with my little family. My daughter is fortunate she has been in more country than I was at age 19. But, as a child and growing up, I always traveled a lot with my parents. We made a lot of “Safari trips” in Africa, which just means a trip in Swahili.
Other than traveling, I also love News, especially Politics, whether it’s American or African. I love watching TV5 for the French. I grew up in a house where at 8 p.m, everybody would sit in front of the TV and watch the news. So I still do it, I guess by habit. Plus, it keeps you cultivated.
AM: Currently, where is home?
Joelle: Right now, home is New York. I totally love NY and I really enjoy living there.
AM: Tell us a little about your family.
Joelle: I have a lovely husband. He really is what I’ve always wished for. He is very supportive at everything that I do, very loving and caring. He is also an inspiration to me, a strong personality and very funny. He’s also very successful at what he does.
AM: What is his profession?
Joelle: He recently retired from football (NFL) and he is focusing on his entrepreneurship. He is dealing with a numbers of hotel chains, having his music album “Nova53 Record.” He is also involved with NFL media and does analysis for Sky Sport NFL only football game in London and he has recently became owner of a football team in England.
AM: And you do have a daughter as you said earlier on?
Joelle: Yes. We have a 2 year old daughter. She is very energetic and alert. I am fortunate to still have both my mom and dad, and they have been together for 33 year now and still together.
I have one brother in Canada, one sister who lives in England and 2 sisters and one brother who lives and study in South Africa. So all together, we are 6 kids all over the world (laughs). It’s good because I get to visit each one in different parts of the world.
AM: Tell us, how can someone get into the Clothing Design business? How do you become designer?
Joelle: First of all, you have to be passionate about it. I meet so many people in the fashion industry that are in there just for the money and the glamour. They become what I call “fashion groupies.” They should not just go for what other designers are doing out there. I strongly believe that there is something special and particular in every single one of us that others may not have. And that is what the focus should be on. I encourage every one that is interested on becoming a fashion designer to get a type of education about it. I will never trade my education for anything in the world. It taught me so much patience and skills. I used to be very clumsy, and that changed a lot when I attended fashion school. Perseverance is a must. Always finish what you start. You can not sale a piece of clothe half made, can you? (laughs)
AM: I guess not.
Joelle: Get as many information as u can about it and never stop getting informed. I don’t know how many times I walked down New York fashion district trying to get specific information and still didn’t get an answer at the end of the day. So, determination and perseverance will get you the answer. Last but not least, never give up your vision. Complete your vision. You are the only one who knows what your vision is.
AM: Do you have a special market target?
Joelle: Many women that come to see me are so frustrating trying to get a nice shirt that fits properly to buy, at the same time they don’t want to look like everybody else. They love classic, not boring, but fun at the same time. They also want a shirt that they can wear next year around this time and will not feel like they’re out of style. I make sure that when a woman finally finds IJO and buy a shirt, she becomes part of this dream we offer her: an IJO membership at her first purchase.
AM: Can you elaborate more on this?
Joelle: Let’s say she is taking a trip in London; she can stop by in one of our IJO sponsor lounge and restaurant and have a free glass of wine as a thank you for your business. That’s how IJO shows appreciation to its customers. I don’t know how many times I have purchased a $280 shirt and didn’t hear anything back from the seller a year after I bought it. That is kind of my inspiration behind this. IJO is a new revolution. We are not just selling clothing; you become part of IJO culture. It is a realization of a dream.
AM: Tell us more about your design: where can we purchase your clothing line?
Joelle: it is currently available in Chicago. It will soon be available to buy now online on my website at www.ijo.ca . We also have different events where we present the collection and people get to touch and feel it for themselves. They also get to meet me and get my fashion prospective.
AM: How and where do you get your inspiration from?
Joelle: There are lots of things that inspire me, from Congolese and African fashion. We have amazing details, especially on the fit. The Congolese woman wears a lot of what we call in Lingala “Mabaya” . It is very curvy and shows what women are proud to show, and men appreciate looking at it (laughs). As you can see, my shirts are very detailed and curved. In Congo, we also have a lot of unbelievable gorgeous embroidery and fabrics that truly are an inspiration to me. I would love to use them for my future collections. Also, designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Michael Kors, Alphadi, and Ungaro are the fabulous designers that I have always loved to watch. We actually had to learn about some of their works back in school, and reading their stories and biographies, seeing how they began and that they also had to go through the same struggle that I had. It wasn’t always easy but they made it. That is truly an inspiration to me.
AM: How do you promote yourself?
Joelle: Right now, I have people working for me on the aspect of advertisement. I also like to do some on my own, because I love learning new things. I am fortunate to have some good friends that also help promote my products. For example, Noella Coursaris, the model portrayed on the photos, is beautiful from the inside and out. She has been very supportive of what I do.
AM: Tell us about your upcoming collection. Also where can we preview your past and present collection?
Joelle: My new collection is called the “chocolate factory.” The theme of each clothe is based on different flavors of chocolate. It is a really an amazing collection, which really gives you bubbles. It will soon be sold on my official website at www.ijo.ca
AM: Let’s talk about Africa. In your opinion, what’s the number one issue to deal with in Africa?
AM: What’s your take (solution) on it?
Joelle: We need more leaders that are ready to serve their population in a very unselfish way and who are willing to fight through to rebuild what we have lost, maintain the positive things we have and build what we need to have in order to give everyone a chance to live a safe and decent life.
AM: About Africa: what will you keep?
Joelle: Its natural beauty, the great variety of food, the strong culture of respect of others, the warmness, welcoming and Kindness to all man kinds.
AM: What will you change?
AM: What’s the best food you always crave for when you visit Africa?
Joelle: Well, it is too hard for me to live without my Congolese food. So I always find a way to get it. Also, I love to cook it; that is what I eat almost every day. I introduced it to my husband and it looks like he loves it more than me sometimes (laughs). But there are a lot of fishes that I miss from Congo. We have a big variety of fishes there and the best part is how we cook it. I really miss that. Also, there are some great fruits and type of foods that I can’t even name in English that I can only get in Congo; and I miss all that.
AM: What do you see in the future for Africa?
Joelle: Africa is already a very natural beautiful continent. I mean, you can not even explain the natural beauty of it; you have to see it for yourself to believe it. You can actually walk in some parts of Africa where its beauty makes you think “this is heaven.”
I see a great number of brilliant, intelligent, wise and talented people in there. So, I see all of us putting our pride, selfishness, division and fight against each others aside and being more united. First, we have to start being happy and supportive of each other at a very small level. We can not all make big differences, but the small difference that me makes for the better can really make Africa a better and brighter place to be.
AM: Tell us, what is the craziest thing you ever done?
Joelle: Getting a tattoo on my back. It’s crazy because of the pain. I don’t think I will be having more tattoos. And to think this is just a very small tattoo that says love in Chinese. Now when I walk around and see these people with giant tattoos on their back, I wonder how did they do that?!? The pain was greater than I ever expected (laughs)
AM: Other than the Fashion Design world, what other projects are you involved in at the present?
Joelle: I was involved in a project for prevention of domestic violence in NY. I did this because I think it is a subject that is not discussed enough about. In my country, a lot of it is “taboo.” But yet, a lot of people are suffering from that. This is something that I would love to change at least at the best of my ability.
AM: How do you stay in touch with Africa (Congo)?
Joelle: I have been quite around. I can list some: Congo Brazzaville, Ndola in Zambi, Harare, bulawayo, Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), cape town, Johannesburg SA, Edinburgh and Glasgow Scotland, almost all England, Paris, Brussels and Anvers Belgium, Netherlands, Montreal Canada… I have been in about 16 states in the U.S.A. so far. Favorite place of course Cape Town, South Africa: it is a breathtaking place and that is why I decided to get married there. Paris, France: I love almost everything about it; the food, the City, and I get to speak French too.
AM: How can someone contact you for more information about IJO Design?
AM: Any words of wisdom for all our aspiring fashion designers out there?
Joelle: Do not follow the crowd. Follow your heart.
AM: Any last words?
Joelle: It was a wonderful interview. It allowed me to go back in the past and pull out some great memories of my journey and to appreciate every aspect of them. I do not take anything for granted. For all my readers from all walk of lives, I just want to say if you have a dream- it doesn’t matter how big or small – if they told you, you can’t make it…You have a dream, it’s already a start. Now you have got to Start, It doesn’t matter where or how you start it, just make sure you finish what you have started. Do not just dream but complete your dream.
Thank you Joelle for your time. We wish you success in all your endeavors and we will keep you in our radar.