Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Adama Paris to fashion industry: 'Stop discrimination, black is beautiful'

From Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Jessica Ellis, CNN
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Senegalese fashion designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye is better known by the name of her world renowned label, Adama Paris. Senegalese fashion designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye is better known by the name of her world renowned label, Adama Paris.
HIDE CAPTION
Fashion icon
Eye-catching creations
Growing force
Generating interest
A new event
Bringing exposure
Promoting local talent
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Adama Amanda Ndiaye is best known as the creator of fashion label, Adama Paris
  • The Senegalese designer wants to reinvent how African fashion is showcased
  • Tired of seeing a lack of black models on the catwalk, she launched Black Fashion Week

African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa's most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.

Dakar, Senegal (CNN) -- Wearing a stylish red dress and a beaming smile, celebrated fashion designer Adama Paris sits comfortably inside her spacious living room in Dakar, the vibrant seaside capital of Senegal, as we discuss her inspirations.

"My designing process starts always with me," explains Paris. "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," she adds. "It's African."

Indeed, for more than a decade the Senegalese designer has been putting African fashion to global runways and clothing stores -- from New York and London to Paris and Tokyo.

But besides spreading her stylish vision around the world, Paris is also bringing attention closer to home -- 12 years ago she founded Dakar Fashion Week, a popular event allowing designers from all over West Africa and beyond to showcase their colorful creations to fashion lovers and international media.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz/file

"The fashion scene in Senegal is so bold," says Paris, whose real name is Adama Amanda Ndiaye. "I have seen it grow like a baby and I am so proud to be a part of this."

Putting Africa on the fashion map
Surfing inspires Senegalese designer
Designer's exciting new venture

Black Fashion Week

Following the initial success of the Dakar Fashion week, Paris began receiving invitations to attend big designers' shows in fashion capitals like London and New York. But whilst there, she quickly started feeling like an outsider.

"I was really frustrated," she says. "When I looked around there were so few black models and I felt like I wasn't belonging there."

That frustration was behind Paris' decision to start Black Fashion Week in 2010 to help promote the talented black designers and models that she felt were being ignored by the industry. Paris held the inaugural event in the Czech Republic, followed by editions in Paris, Montreal, Geneva and Bahia.

"I thought it was right ... to try to do something to help my own people and to get more exposure," she says. "It was not saying them they were wrong, it was saying, 'OK, we are here,'" adds Paris.

"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."

The designer's latest venture is the launch of a new fashion TV channel

From the runway to the TV screen

The daughter of diplomats, Paris spent much of her childhood traveling and soaking up other cultures before finally settling in France where she attended college. She first made a name for herself in the French capital but decided to bring her fashion home to Senegal in 2001.

Now, with a thriving label and flourishing annual events under her belt, the fashion entrepreneur is taking on her next business venture -- TV.

A two-year project in the making, Paris has had her heart set on creating a new avenue to promote local fashion talent. Starting with a reality show she describes as the "equivalent of America's Next Top Model," Paris wants 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."

Her other goal is to introduce viewers to alternative fashion designers. While there are currently channels devoted to fashion, Paris explains that they don't show enough African inspiration and when they do, coverage tends to focus on designers from South 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 Paris. Fashion made in Africa by Africans."

READ THIS: Dakar, the 'capital of Franco-African fashion'

READ THIS: Teen rapper fights sexual harassment

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Starting a business is never easy, but in Tanzania, the obstacles for women can be particularly fierce.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Through a variety of exhibitions including one signed off by the artist himself, Nigeria is presenting J.D. Okhai Ojeikere to the world one last time.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Neurosurgeon Kachinga Sichizya talks about caring for newborns and mothers from underprivileged backgrounds.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astake may be the father of a musical genre: Ethio-jazz. But when he talks about the art form, he tends to focus on its scientific merits.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0953 GMT (1753 HKT)
Daniel
Kenyan funny man Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki chooses five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on -- they are going to be big!
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
African contemporary art is thriving, says author Chibundu Onuzo.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1010 GMT (1810 HKT)
Photographer Ernest Cole made it his life mission to capture the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
Mulenga Kapwepwe
Mulenga Kapwepwe has single-handedly created an explosion of arts in Zambia.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African superbike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Nelson Mandela
Adrian Steirn and the 21 ICONS team have captured intimate portraits of some of South Africa's most celebrated. Here he reveals the story behind the photographs.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0926 GMT (1726 HKT)
Explore a series of artistic street portraits designed to pay tribute to the people of the Sudanese capital.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
A growing list of popular African authors have been steadily picking up steam --and fans -- across the globe over the last several years.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic musical legends from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT