Born in Africa, calling to the world

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The look book pictures are by Aubrey Jonsson 

Larger-than-life, lookbook photographs hang from the ceiling. Each celebrates the modern African woman, their presentation adding a dramatic dreamlike
The venue is the East City Studios in Cape Town. The occasion: fashion label Mille Collines’ showcase of its AW 2016 collection, called Curio City.

At the event last week, produced by Deon Redman of Creative Production, with photographs by Aubrey Jonsson and ArtLab, the brand’s co-founders Inés Mille and Marc Collines were joined by designer Namnyak Odupoy, the newest addition to the team.
They spoke to me about their inspiration and brand.

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Who is Mille Collines? Mille Collines is a fashion brand that was born in Rwanda, is inspired by Africa and is appealing to the world.

It is about representing you: a woman who belongs to Africa, who lives in a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city; a woman who travels and always discovers.

You have an affinity for fine detail. You are a woman of success who stands out in crowds… Mille Collines creates for you and wants to walk with you on your journey. We are passionate about designing the best clothes that speak to the woman you are.

What is your creative process? We are three creative heads: Marc Collines, Inés Mille and Namnyak Odupoy. Marc is more focused on the pattern and construction, and Namnyak and Inés are focused on colour, tactile applications and materials.

Aside from the three creative heads of the brand, there is a large network of workshops in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa that have been involved in the making of the collection and that regularly work with the brand in the development of our products.

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We worked with a group of 25 Maasai women who hand-embroidered every beaded application and created all the beaded accessories.

We also used handmade glass beads from Japan. All the leather and brass
accessories were created in our partner workshop in Nairobi, which was responsible
for the making of all the leather and woven handbags, as well as all the “faux elephant hair” jewellery.

The garments were created between our atelier (studio) in Nairobi and our partner CMTs (cutters, makers and trimmers) in Cape Town, the sunglasses in collaboration
with Ballo, a Cape Town-based sunglass brand, and the laptop purses in collaboration
with Wendren, a brand that uses recycled paper finished off with a waterproof coating.

They customised our collection prints on the purses. The woven inserts in our handbags were done using recycled T-shirt yarn by a women’s workshop based in Khayelitsha.

Tell us about your latest collection, “Curio City”? The collection takes inspiration from the African curio shops and their disconnection with today’s Africa.

We understand the nostalgic connection that curio objects have for our woman and her childhood, therefore we have reinterpreted these elements to reflect the Africa she lives in today, cosmopolitan and globalised.

In other words, taking the most evidently “African” elements that represent Africa for most foreigners and reinterpreting them in contemporary expressions of fashion.

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During your shows you acknowledge each mode. Why? The models themselves are individuals who are part of the collaborative process. We looked for not just
models, but individuals, each on their own journey through the world regardless of where they have come from.

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What inspires you? Africa, first and foremost. That is always the starting point. Anything from materials to craftsmanship techniques, to artists we collaborate with are always explored in Africa.

Our inspiration has always come from the origin and roots of African culture, transforming this into contemporary pieces for today’s woman.

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AIR COUTURE: Co-founders of the brand Marc Collines and Inés Mille.

What’s next? We will be relaunching our online store this month to bring our products to the women in South Africa and opening a flagship store in South Africa. The brand currently owns four stores in Nairobi, Kenya.

● For more on Millie Collines: Web:
Twitter: @mille_collines
Instagram: @millecollines

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on May 18 2016.

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