The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
Diana Tambe is a Cameroonian fashion designer and founder of Africa Fashion Week Amsterdam. She brings fashion designers, artists, buyers, retailers and creatives across the globe to the Netherlands to celebrate and support African fashion. Diana is also the creator of the clothing line Blackpearl Secret. Diana aims to connect high-end retailers to emerging talent in the fashion world. AFWA was held at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam and the third edition will take place in August 2016.
Why did you decide to start a fashion week for Africans in Amsterdam?
The African fashion industry needed to be developed in the Netherlands. The only existing African fashion week in Europe when I started was in London. Those who visited the first two editions of Africa Fashion Week Amsterdam noticed that there were more Dutch visitors than Africans in attendance.
After a while, I started designing as well.
The Dutch felt that we were adding something different to Dutch society. They saw it as vibrant, colourful and ultimately beautiful. Of course, there were those who attended out of pure curiosity because they are into fashion but from the first edition I saw that there was real interest.
How did you become interested in fashion?
As a kid, growing up in Cameroon before we moved with my mum to the Netherlands, I always redesigned my own outfits and I always put together my own clothing. I started out as a model, modelling in the Netherlands for about seven years. At the time, I was one of the ‘permanent’ black models in the Netherlands, so I was able to make a lot of contacts through my assignments and people I met in the entertainment industry.
After a while, I started designing as well. My first show as a fashion designer was at Fashions Finest, which has an affiliation with London Fashion Week. That is when my close friends encouraged me to launch a fashion week in the Netherlands.
By @lia_samantha via @RepostWhiz app: BackSatge! New Collection “EGYPT” By/ @lia_samantha From @afwamsterdam 2015 A photo posted by Africa Fashion Week Amsterdam (@afwamsterdam) on
As an entrepreneur, I now realise that it is difficult to find people who share the same dream and ambition as you. Finding sponsors is not easy, either but somehow I always seem to manage to find them at the last minute. And most of my funding comes from Africa, from Nigeria to be precise. And it’s mostly private individuals.
Every door that I knock on, I always make sure I get what I want, whether it’s finding a way to become part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Istanbul or managing to do the same thing in my own country, Cameroon, even though the Ministries of Tourism and Arts and Culture are not very supportive over there. When I went to Nigeria, however, I found the government to be very supportive, and willing to sponsor.
In Cameroon, I didn’t even get to meet the minister, whereas in Nigeria I met five ministers, who all felt that there was a need for what we were doing. I am already looking forward to producing the next event in Nigeria in 2016.
When I think of Cameroon, I can already see how we can create a company that supports local artists and artisans, beyond a fashion week.
But I am not giving up on Cameroon. I feel like the youth there really need this. All they do is go to restaurants, clubs and hotels but they are not as productive as they should be. In terms of entertainment, there isn’t that much going on. When I think of Cameroon, I can already see how we can create a company that supports local artists and artisans, beyond a fashion week, with a view to supporting true local talent. Right now, I am doing my master’s in tourism and travel management and long term I can see how we can help to develop a new travel industry in Africa, starting in Cameroon.
Who is your African of the year?
That is a difficult question. My Africans of the year are the Africans that I don’t even know yet but am looking forward to supporting and putting on an international platform, so that their work can be sold in the mainstream market, in the same way that Prada bags are. But more specifically, I would name Ramsey Nouah, the Nigerian actor and director who has been there for me since the beginning, even agreeing to host my event starting with the first edition.
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