Friday, November 24, 2006
Alphadi | Magician of the Desert
Sidhamed, Seidnaly | Alphadi
Niger | France
b. 01/06/1957 - Present
Alphadi | Magician of the Desert
Alphadi. The most exciting fashion designer from Africa a place not normally recognised for its design. He was born in the late 50’s into African Royalty in Mali, Seidnaly Sidhamed, a.k.a. Alphadi, better known as the magician of the desert, has, over the last twenty years made his name as the finest fashion designer to come out of Africa. He is now the proud owner of 20 shops worldwide and against all the odds he truly is one of the genuine success stories of Modern Africa.
Alphadi was born into a strict Muslim family and was expected to marry an arranged marriage by the time he was 21. He found he had a flare for design at a very young age and to his parents horror he decided to follow his dream. He was originally from a wealthy family as his father was a dignitary and a successful tradesman to the French army. His father had made his fortune supplying French regiments with food, cloth and all essential items for living in the Desert areas of Mali and Niger. His father was a devout Islamist and read the Koran everyday. At the beginning the battle was not only with his family but also with the Society in which he lived. In the late 60’s and 70’s there was no such thing as Fashion in Black Africa and more often than not he would be up against such inverted snobbery and prejudice. Even today cloth-weaving and tailoring in Africa has a real stigma behind it. Fashion is seen as woman’s work or work for hooligans to keep them off the streets certainly not fit for Alphadi, meaning a Marabout or Prince. The battle was to change the Continent’s perception of Fashion.
Fashion is a concept created by the West and the Africans even today will give far greater respect to those wearing clothes from the fashion houses of Italy, France and the US rather than Niger, Cote D’Ivoire fashion house. This is sheer ignorance but the same could be said about us. We in Britain would not feel boastful in wearing an Alphadi dress made of Ugandan bark but we should. It really is in the marketing and advertising as Alphadi’s designs derive from centuries of traditional African handicrafts from tribes such as Songhay, Zarma, Bororo, Hausa and the innovative Tuareq people. All of these tribal and traditional techniques are fused with European styles of modernity in order to create a fantastic unique look. Alphadi design is more than Fashion. It is a strong personal statement of integration and a Global awareness and acceptance. To wear Alphadi is to be a part of the Society that sets the fashion rather than follows it. The complex psychological barrier that Alphadi has come up against throughout the twenty years has made him stronger and all the more determined. Those in Francophone countries of West Africa such as Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso and Northern Cameroon have always appreciated his creativity and also he has a successful boutique in Cote d’Ivoire, so his main market is with the West African rich but that is changing.
Since 1987 Alphadi has had a string of successes, firstly, when the French Federation of Couture and Prêt à Porter in Paris offered him an Oscar for the Best African designer then, in 1998 Alphadi created the International Festival of Fashion in Niamey, Niger, a Fashion Event where African and International dressmakers share their passion for Fashion. Today it is known as the Festival International de la Mode Africaine and more recently he was invited to be the President of the Federation of African Creators FCA.
Alphadi is one of the new breed of creative individuals who recently at the KFW, Kenyan Fashion Week in June, publicly stated that he uses Fashion as a development tool and in so doing provides sustainable job opportunities in the Continent of Africa. He declared, “Europeans are our partners and friends, not necessarily the only leaders in design.” He is a great example for the young of Africa.
Today, Alphadi is married to a woman from Niger who has lived the majority of her life in Paris and has five children. His work is having more universal appeal and his shop in Paris, opened in December 1999, no.13, Paul Bert St in the trendy 11th arrondissement, is a great success. He is presently creating a range of perfumes namely, Aïr. Aïr is the name for part of the desert native of Niger, beside Ténénéré. Alphadi never forgets his roots and pays homage to his beautiful desert. The plans for the future are to produce a range of cosmetics such body lotion and facial cream and continue his unique style of African chic.
Article by Joe Pollitt