TIA contributor Atane Ofiaja recently had a chat with him.
TIA: Tell us about yourself and your background.
Toure: I am a second generation tailor and designer. My father was my first teacher and inspiration. My ancestry is from Mali, however I was born and raised in Ghana. I have been sewing since I was 13 years old. I was 13 when I took my apprenticeship in Paris for 8 months.
Were you always into fashion?
As a young boy, I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I grew up listening to music from the U.S. as a teenager, so naturally most of the R&B singers and hip hop artists were influential as well. This was one of the main reasons for creating a desire to design for my favorite artists.
How did you get into tailoring and fashion design?
It was natural choice of selection for me. It became my passion at an early age from watching my father, then later being influenced by American culture and music.
You moved to the United States and began working out of Harlem. How was that experience?
I was working in Harlem in my early days in the U.S. It was an amazing experience and it got me one step closer to working with some of my favorite entertainers. The location where I worked at in Harlem was right next to the world famous Apollo Theater. This was a sign that my desire to work with these entertainers was getting closer.
How did you link up with Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan?
I met Raekwon while working in Harlem at a local clothing store on 125th street. He often shopped there and became acquainted with me through a series of visits.
Was it through Raekwon that you started designing for other celebrities and high profile people?
Yes! He was very instrumental in helping my name reach other artists in the game.
Lots of African celebs like Wizkid, Davido and others wear you. Has it brought more attention to you back in African countries as well?
Most definitely! In addition to working with artists from back home, I have also worked with Seyi Shey, Shatta Wale and Iyanya.
How would you describe your style?
My style is mixture of continental African with African-American hip hop swag.
You’re known for your leather designs in particular. Is that a material you favor or is it because of demand?
Both. Actually I prefer to work with leather so much to the point that my clients refer to me as “The Leather King.”
There is a lot more attention being paid to African and African inspired designs in the west. While many people view the attention as great, some are concerned that this will result in African designs being made, appropriated and ultimately profited on by non-Africans. What are your thoughts?
It’s a catch 22 situation. On one hand it is great to bring African inspired designs to the fashion forefront, which in turns brings more business to African textiles and African designers. It also spreads awareness about Africa. The flip side is yes, people that are non-African would be inclined to wear African inspired clothing, and fashion designers that are non-African will also financially gain from the trending resurgence of African culture and style. Personally, I would rather have the message (African designs) get out there, because at the end of the day these are all African creations.
What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect my company to expand into two more brands. You can also expect to see my brand in more retail stores across the country. Keep a look out for my brand to be featured in television and movie projects in the near future.