by Tsitaliya Mircheva
I’ve always been interested in the language of clothes, in the way women use fashion and style to express their personality and individuality. What’s curious to me is also how a piece of fabric comes to life, how fashion designers translate local culture and tradition into their pieces, how colour and symbolism are used to tell a story and create impact in the world.
With such interest I’ve always been looking to choose and buy pieces for my wardrobe that have their own story, that trigger my imagination and provoke my curiosity mixed with almost child-like excitement to learn more about the world and other cultures and traditions. Today high street fashion threatens to suffocate most independent small designers and creative minds, but we all hope that will change (check our articles on Mode Suisse).
And as an activist and mindful consumer who wants to be in some way a catalyst for such change, I’ve decided to start a series of Fashion Story Telling for Mums in Heels. My first partner in crime is Melanie Hanimann, the founder of the African Fashion Agency Hanimanns:
Tsitaliya: Melanie tell me about the agency, how did you come up with the idea?
Melanie: I took a month off in October last year to visit Ghana. At this time the Accra Fashion Week took place. I realized that there are many great designers in Ghana, but they have no way to sell their product. In Ghana, the market is still very small, and the step to Europe is impossible for the designers. So I had the idea to represent them and promote their collections in Europe.
I started my own agency with the desire to build a cultural bridge between Africa and Europe. This agency can serve both sides as a platform where buyers can get an access to a different kind of style and fashion design.
Tsitaliya: Is this fashion only for women of colour?
Melanie: Not at all. On the one hand, the designers are very different, not all of them work with the typical wax prints we associate with Africa. I try to represent this diversity of designers with my agency. On the other hand, the combination is key. With the good styling, these collections fit perfectly into every day “Swiss” life.
Tsitaliya: Why African fashion?
Melanie: As half Taiwanese / half Swiss, I grew up in two cultures. I have always been fascinated by different cultures and lifestyles. In 2011 I was in Ghana for a few months as a volunteer and was able to get to know the country and the culture. Africa took me from the first minute.
The continent is extremely rich with different peoples and different traditions. I like the courageous way the designers approach colours and shapes.
Tsitaliya: What is your dream, what do you want to achieve with your idea? How do you want to impact the world?
Melanie: Stories of Africa are not told well. Often the beautiful stories about art, music and design get lost between the stereotypical stories.
Africa has great economic potential and the most youthful population in the world. These are all people with great motivation to tell their authentic story and show modern Africa. If you take your time to stay in Accra, you will discover an extremely large number of galleries, music events, talks, fashion events, great bars, concept stores and much more, actually very similar to Zurich or Paris.
It is crucial to me that this undertone, which always comes with Africa will disappear. I’m not a charity organisation; I work on an equal level with the designers. Of course, my agency supports the local population, because we produce in Africa. But most important to me is to show a new approach to Africa.
Fashion generally has to find a new approach. As far as sustainability or working conditions are concerned. My vision is of course to make an impact in this area, but there is still a long way to go.
Tsitaliya: If you can share one message with the modern woman today, what would it be?
Melanie: Everything is possible. Be proud and just do it.