Mimi Plange: the designer who wants to democratise luxury with African craftsmanship

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 and tomorrow. We’re featuring them over 100 days and we’ve asked each of them three questions.

Ghanaian-born Mimi Plange is a New York-based designer and founder of womenswear label Mimi Plange. She completed a BA in architecture at UC Berkeley but then went on to do fashion. First lady Michelle Obama is a fan of her designs and in 2012 Mimi won Designer of the Year at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, South Africa. She tells us why the luxury industry is turning to African products and the importance of different sources of inspiration when you’re a designer.

Your work draws from architecture, history and collaboration with other artists. What advice would you give to young designers on the importance of drawing inspiration from a variety of avenues?

Inspiration is everywhere. In fashion, the seasons go by so quickly and you will need to feel stimulated by the world around you, in order to design for the people that live in it. You will always have your favourite things that you are drawn to but it’s also great to be up to date with current culture and the wants and desires of the people you want to dress. It starts with you and your personal inspirations, then it moves to your customer. What does he or she like? From what should you create that overall feeling of beauty you want to give your client?

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Having a variety of inspiration will keep you always thinking about the next collection and excited to create something new. As a designer, you will need your work to evolve and the only way to do that is by constantly opening yourself up to the diverse world around you. It is about studying the world of the past and fantasising about the world of tomorrow, without forgetting about the original inspirations you had and your brand DNA.

How do you see the Africa as being part of the ‘Democratisation of Luxury’?

The ‘Democratisation of Luxury’ is about what luxury means to you as an individual. It cannot be defined by anyone else. Africa is defining its own luxury today and Africa is the most luxurious continent on earth. It is overflowing with natural resources, sunny days and deeply talented people. In the future, Africa will be the destination for creating luxury goods.

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There is no other continent with such an abundance of artisans and craftsmen. The teachings of craftsmanship are getting weaker around the world, while the growth of skilled artisans is increasing every day in Africa. Africa is part of the ‘Democratisation of Luxury’ because it is a new voice in the luxury industry. It says, ‘I am my own luxury. We have everything we need, right here.’

Who’s your African of the year?

My African of the year is international music star Akon, for creating Akon Lighting Africa and helping to solve Africa’s energy issues with solar electricity. He has empowered Africans by creating access to more information via phone, television and radio and by stimulating the economy by giving people the opportunity to work longer and into the evening.

He has also addressed climate issues with a sustainable solution and has contributed to the growth of tomorrow’s Africa. He has shown us his love for Africa, its people and its progress.

Check out mimiplange.com

Follow Mimi Plange on Twitter @MIMIPLANGE

Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica

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