• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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I am using fashion to rebrand Africa and demonstrate the vibrancy of the continent – Wardah


Waridi Wardah, a Kenyan is into fashion business. She founded Fashion Africa 254, and has travelled to many parts of the world to provide mentorship. Today, she is a role model, public speaker, fashion project designer, model, and storyteller through her writing. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, she spoke on her expectation from the forthcoming Lagos Leather Fair, her drive to use fashion as a tool to rebrand Africa, among others. Excerpts:

Could you please briefly introduce yourself properly?

I am Kenyan, born and raised. I finished my studies in Nairobi, and my family is still based in Kenya. I left Nairobi to pursue a modelling career in London, which proceeded to New York and ending in Germany a year later. I have been based in Berlin for the last 28 years and still seen as a model. For the past 15 years, I have served a role model with my work in using fashion as a tool to rebrand Africa and demonstrate the vibrancy of the continent.

Kindly tell us about what the Waridi-Wardah brand stands for?

My name is Waridi-Wardah, it is a rooted mix of my Arabic name Wardah and its Kenyan translation, Waridi. I decided to combine them, bringing both origins together as a reminder of my background. Waridi Wardah is me embodying my expertise as a mentor, role model, public speaker, fashion project designer, model, and storyteller through my writing. It is a medium that has allowed me to share my knowledge and experiences to help others shine.

How has your journey at Fashion Africa 254 and your work with Vogue Germany and Italy, shaped your outlook on the African fashion industry?

I finally launched Fashion Africa 254 back in 2013 to fill a support gap I noticed in the African landscape since 2009. African designers were incredible and talented, but they needed a little help getting noticed. Plus, while certain niches were not getting any visibility, others were getting a negative narrative of what Africa fashion was about. It was time to change that. Fashion Africa 254 is all about putting those young, creative minds from Africa on the map. We’re not about handouts or charity, we are focused on giving them the platform they deserve to showcase their work and succeed.

A great boost was when both Vogue Germany and Vogue Italy took notice of my work and showed their support. They featured my articles, which was a major honor and a huge sign that all my years of hard work were paying off.

We see that you have been making very strategic moves to improve the fashion and creative industries with mentorship programs targeted at the African and global space. What is your inspiration for making this happen?

The African fashion scene deserves a major glow-up. We’ve got incredible talent here, but it’s time to break down some walls and show the world what we arere all about. We need to build up the confidence of local designers and get everyone, both locally and globally, understanding and supporting African fashion – from ideation to purchase. African fashion is the next big thing, and with the proper collaboration, partnerships, and mentorship opportunities, African fashion can continue to evolve.

This year, you will be participating at the Lagos Leather Fair, in what capacities would you be functioning in the 7th Edition of this illustrious event? What can we expect?

I am excited to be at this year’s event and sharing my knowledge and expertise wherever needed. Whether it is by helping young brands find their voice, styling the amazing fashion shows, or working with photographers to take marketable images for improved visibility for designers. I also look forward to engaging in one-to-one conversations with established brands and helping fill any gaps. LLF will surely be a very fulfilling experience and my sincere hope is that my input makes a real difference for the designers and the whole fair.

How did you become familiar with the Lagos Leather Fair?

Its founder, the owner of Femi Handbags, is one of the brands I highly respect and I have watched her progress through the years. Five years ago, she has a lot of brand visibility in the German market, and we got in touch. Since then, I have followed Lagos Leather Fair’s impact and progress. In the past I familiarised myself with Ethiopian leather brands and the East African industry, and now I have become curious about West Africa – and what better way to become acclimatised than to participate in the biggest leather fair in the West African region.

What do you hope attendants take away from the event regarding Africa’s fashion ecosystem?

Progress in the fashion industry is a global marathon, not a sprint. That is why getting everyone on board with the journey is crucial. The Lagos Leather Fair is the perfect platform to leverage the power of collaboration and shared experiences to educate everyone on the fashion journey in Africa. I believe through LLF, we can raise the knowledge bar in the ecosystem and create a future where fashion is not just about trends, but about making a positive impact and carrying along the people around you.

With your global experience working alongside top designers and fashion leaders, what would be your advice for upcoming creatives and entrepreneurs in the African leather industry?

It is important for Africans to know that we need a rock-solid foundation to truly thrive. That means building a strong structure, getting our logistics on point, and most importantly, fostering creativity, trust and collaboration across the continent. My advice would be for upcoming African creatives is to imagine what they can achieve with access to community, shared knowledge, and creative support – and chase opportunities that lead them to that image. LLF is a good place to start.