Monday, March 3, 2008

Everybody wants a piece of African Style...

Well, well, well...what have we here.

On my usual research mission, I stumbled upon this interesting collection by an Asian designer called Valentine Leung. She's a New York based designer known for her playful and quirky take on timeless shapes and styles.

Valentine Leung is a New York based fashion designer known for her playfully quirky take on classic and wearable silhouettes. As a styling assistant on major titles like Italian Vogue, W, I-D, Dutch, Japanese Vogue and Teen Vogue to name a few, she definitely has the inside track on what is hot now and what will be hot next season. Her firsy collection debuted in Autumn/Winter 2006 and since she's already managed to be featured in magazines as ELLE, HarperÕs Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Nylon, Lucky and People amongst others. AND she's got a handful of stylish celebs in her clothes...Rachel Bilson, Camille Belle and Isla Fisher to name a few.

In her fourth season as a designer, Valentine is already stocked in 26 stores worldwide such as Barneys Tokyo, Nordstrom, Intermix and Printemps in Paris.

Take a look and let me know what you think.
Valentine Belle Butterfly Dress

Valentine Belle Butterfly Dress

Valentine Jewel V Shape Yoke Dress

Valentine Jewel V Shape Yoke Dress

Valentine Shelly Tank Ruffle Hem Dress

Valentine Shelly Tank Ruffle Hem Dress
Love this dress! No disrespect intended but I have to say I have something shockingly similar courtesy of my tailor in Lagos. Still can't knock her hustle. I just wish more African designers would get their stuff OUT there properly. There's a lot of talent but for some reason people seem to reluctant/scared to sell abroad...why is that?

Instead behemoths like Old Navy, and designers like Cacherel and now Valentine bite our style. Hmmmm.


Oyinkan said...

my thoughts exactly. Everyone is doing this tribal/global trend. I've seen a couple of dresses and thought...hmm dont i have that? Its a shame really, because Nigerian ladies invented this trend but these big designers are taking credit for it.

Uzo said...

Ankara all the way...Interesting. I dropped by on saturday....

SET said...


tee said...

e-commerce, e-commerce, e-commerce. anyone who's behind on that is behind on a huge, HUGE potential market. what will it take? this is one of my biggest pet peeves...can you tell? lol. also, i'm not sure how i feel when you say they 'bite our style'. everyone borrows from everyone borrows from everyone. it's our fabric, yes. but we use european fabrics, too. in fact, up until this ankara explosion, our dressing was very european indeed. also, it's VERY telling that we're still making skirts and blouses out of ankara. granted, ms. valentine isn't doing much that's original. but who is these days?


Thank you for writing about this. I recently saw that some top name designers are making dresses out of ankara-style fabrics (different textiles though). I even saw a 'mud-dress' recently. Oh well, African style is incredible and it is about time that the African influence begin to have its 15 minutes of fame.


tee said...

those dresses are ALL over $400. WHY IS THAT? WHY? it's just bloody ankara, man. and i've seen african/nigerian designers try to sell me a dress for over 200 bucks. uhm, no can do. off to the tailor i go. as a matter of fact, off to learn how to BECOME a tailor. get the pricing right, people...and stop being ridiculous.

2hot4fendi said...

OMG!!! That's good ol ankara "working it" out there.
haha, to think I've got more fabulous ones that cost way cheaper than Val Leung's,
feels good!!!

Tiger Tem said...

@Oyinkan..I just wish someone could 'break' Europe or America. I guess Duro Olowu is first though.

@Uzo...and I missed you again!

@SET...that's the thing with africa, we're all designers in our own right really! All you need is access to a good tailor and a good imagination.

@tee..interesting. Lets chat on email to share some ideas Good point about a general 'borrowing' of style from different cultures. thoughts too. We've seen style/decor/fabrics from India and the Far East so much...its about time Africa got some air time.

@tee...pricing is such a difficult one for so many designers. Low prices only work if you want to hit the mass market. You either sell fewer at a higher price or more at a lower price. And for a lot of people, price is a reflection of quality. The high street's killing it though, cos they're getting quality (to a degree) at rock bottom prices. I just feel sorry for the people in the sweatshops....cos you know that fabulous £15 dress is 100% sweatshop!

@2hot4fendi...ha ha. But its all about exposure...and she's getting lots and probably selling quite a few at those prices too!

SET said...

I could not agree more.

Ladi said...

Tiger. I was learning how to sew for a few months just as a hobby. I can attempt at those designs...not striking something I'll find in my tailors copy of citypeople mag.

$400 is ridiculous cuz its only ankara. Even if made with Holladais or Dutch wax ankara.

Could Jewel by Lisa or Tolu Foyeh get some buzz instead.

I'm kinda annoyed but oh well, we use western fabric too

aschlee said...

The second dress is super cute, I'd love to have that one. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Just to add my two cents... The journey from designers imagination to upmarket boutique is a long one with several middlemen along the way and while the fabric may be relatively cheap the designer gets a very small share of the retail price... The fashion industry is far more business than it is fashion and the complexities of offshore production, duties, tariffs, incorporation, pr, product placement etc is a minefield for seasoned designers in the us so i imagine it must be an even greater struggle for nigerian designers who rarely have the technical or financial support to compete in a global market... This is my opinion of why you see fewer african designers out there...You on the other hand Temi as a nigerian designer of accessories that has recieved a uk vogue mention of your tearoom and has produced a collecion for a few years now is in a better position to enlighten everyone.....Is it fear or reluctance that is holding you back?

Tiger Tem said...

@anon...very interesting comments there. I always say that a good design really isn't worth much anymore. Its all about a great plan.

And incidentally its neither fear nor reluctance holding me back. Timing is key. You need to be sure you're ready for the wider market which I'm sure you'll agree is quite different from running a boutique.

But slow and steady wins the race so I've got 4 boutiques in the US, 2 in Dubai and 1 in London carrying Tiger Tem. Very small quantities. But its a start. And this is very much just the beginning. So hopefully Tiger Tem will break boundaries and put Africa on the retail & fashion map.

Anonymous said...

That seems to be the route that most african designers have taken....And believe me there are a lot that you know and dont know that are in the milieu of fashion plankton, some are even small fry (Duro Olowu falls into this category because his column inches still exceed his sales). Whether or not an african designer will make the leap to big fish (Ralph, Marc, Muicca etc) remains to be seen but in the event it happens they wont achieve it making dresses out of ankara....Slow and steady wins the race is a good motto and I wish you the best of luck with all your endeavours.