Article by Christelle Mekoh

Have you ever heard of Ankara, Kente, Wax or Kitengue? For the past few years, African prints have been at the center stage of the fashion industry – and people are starting to notice. Many celebrities have embraced them and wear them on the red carpet. I love African prints and I have been rocking them as part of my fashion style. And I have always admired this designer

Once upon a time, a girl was born in West Africa. She moved to Central Africa where she grew up and, at a young age, left her parents and moved to Canada. She earned two university degrees in the science field and, by the age of 26, was already a successful manager. After gaining a tremendous amount of work experience in Canada and France she decided to follow her passions. She left Canada and followed her future husband to The Netherlands to start a family and live her dream. Meet Dédé Yebovi: mother, wife and the founder of My Touch Of Africa (MTOA).

My Touch Of Africa was launched in the summer of 2015 as a Netherlands-based online boutique for men and women. It combines African fabrics and textiles with western designs and trends. The first 56 pieces of the collection were designed in beautiful Amsterdam in collaboration with other African designers and made, with care, in Africa. My Touch Of Africa brings the African life and clothing style to the world. It has established itself as a high-fashion brand, produced with the finest textiles of local African materials.

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  1. Dédé, why did you decide to become a fashion designer?

I come from a family of African print lovers. My grandmother was already selling African prints on the local market. She did it until she was no longer physically capable of doing so. My mother, who was a teacher, used to sell African fabrics and clothes as well until the late 1990s. I myself started designing my own clothes in the 2000s. I always had a dream of owning my own clothing line but at that time it was only a hobby while I was at school. I used to get a lot of compliments from people on how beautiful my outfits were and how they would love to acquire some for themselves. Over time, African prints became more and more popular, featuring in fashion shows in many big cities throughout the world. From then on I knew it was time to realise my dream. When I became a mother I decided to be happy and follow my biggest passion: designing and making my creations available to everybody.

  1. What’s your favourite part about being a fashion designer?

For me, it is the only kind of work where I can totally be myself. It is not a 9 to 5 job. My mind is constantly creating and I find myself thinking and talking about it all the time. I just can’t get enough! From the moment I start creating until, ultimately, seeing the finished product is the most rewarding part of the job.

  1. What were your inspirations for the collection you’ve created so far?

The places I have lived; Africa, America and Europe, and my own personality as well. I use my designs and clothes to express strong colours and translate the power of my roots through the textile industry into modern and everyday life compatible apparel. Vibrant and strong colours incorporated into clothes you can wear in the office, in daily life and even in the ballroom. My Touch Of Africa is designed for the strong and proud, yet classy, woman who knows how to be sexy at the same time.

  1. How did you select the materials used?

I wanted to use mostly African fabrics and materials. I wanted to show the rest of the world that beautiful items can be produced and made in Africa too. We did not hesitate to go to several countries to find the best quality products for My Touch Of Africa. Especially for the first collection where we chose bold and opulent patterns.

  1. What do you think of eco-fashion? And the fair trade movement in fashion?

They are definitively part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability. With regard to the social aspect, My Touch Of Africa uses fabrics that have been purchased for fair prices and therefore offer an even higher quality standard. My Touch Of Africa supports the local merchants and artisans in their work and care. The environmentalist part is the most difficult to achieve, but more and more fashion brands are eco-friendly and the movement will continue to grow over time.

  1. What are your favourite brands? Where do you shop?

I’m a big fan of DVF: strong and powerful women through fashion. I don’t prefer a specific shop; when I like something, I buy it. The brand doesn’t matter.

  1. Can you share challenges you faced as a fashion designer and how you’ve overcome them?

Creating and designing are a lot of fun. But there are some challenges to overcome in order to achieve sustainable business. Outsourcing the production to Africa, while living in Europe, was part of it. Good local human resources and effective communication made it a success.

In many countries, fashion is highly seasonal. It is important to create a line that will go with the climate.

  1. What advice would you give to an aspiring fashion designer?

You have to be strong and courageous because operating an empire under your name takes energy and the willingness to accept whatever comes your way. Your talent and reputation are in the public eye at all times. There will be competitors and challengers!

  1. What does the future hold for MTOA?

Great things such as new collections, fashion shows and international growth. In the future, My Touch Of Africa plans to donate a part of its profits to charitable organizations in Africa.

  1. This was your first fashion editorial. What did you think?

Yes, it is my first editorial. I’m glad I’ve been chosen. Above all I’m proud that it is for Elle Afrique. Africa is where my deepest roots are. It is also an opportunity to speak my mind and say out loud that when you are born as an African woman, you can make it anywhere; as long as you follow your dreams.

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I encourage you to check out Dédé’s line. Her new collection includes pieces for men, women and accessories as well. At this time, orders can be shipped to the Netherlands, EU, Canada and the USA. If you want products sent outside these zones, just e-mail My Touch Of Africa .

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