The Abidjan-based designer who is of Ivorian and Lebanese descent, Elie Kuame does not shy away from tapping into his feminine side. Growing up in Ivory Coast,his mother and her refined tastes were huge precursors to his interest in fashion design. After years of experience and artisanal training that cut across bridal dress houses and Parisian workshops, he won a contest for young creators sponsored by the prestigious Hermès House, the DRIM (Republican Diversity and the Initiative in Motion) as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI). This allowed him to launch his first collection showcasing the celebrated regal, detailed, feminine, and sophisticated pieces that have now become his signature look.
The Elie Kuame brand launched its “This is Couture” collection at the Heineken Lagos Fashion Week 2022.
What inspires the looks you create?
Women; the forms of their body, their personalities, their entire essence.
All of the pieces from Elie Kuame had a very regal look to them, was that deliberate?
Yes, Elie Kuame is for women to look like queens and feel like queens, it is for every woman.
Walk us through the theme for “This is Couture”
The theme ‘This is couture’ was very central to how we created all of the pieces you saw on the runway. Our vision for it was to show the diversity, as well as the richness of our heritage. The mix of beads, traditional and modern fabrics, and looks was very intentional. Couture doesn’t have to be fashion that people cannot connect or relate to. Our looks were very African, very royal, and that too is couture.
Your pieces also moved through different African cultures and periods
Certainly. I’m very proud of my Ivorian and Lebanese origins, my mother herself is from Mali and Mauritania, and so I love to say I come from a very culturally rich background. I also studied in Europe, New York, and Saudi Arabia in the very early years of my career, and I try to infuse all of my experience and exposure into the pieces I create.
What’s your work process like?
Like I said before, the Elie Kuame woman is a queen. So, when I begin to create, I ask myself “who is this queen? How can I show who she is with this outfit?” once that vision is clear, I begin to play around with fabrics to bring that vision to life.
Do you have a preference when it comes to the fabrics you work with?
Oh yes! I love silk chiffon, woven fabric, lace, everything actually. I can’t be too partial to any in particular; I just try to make something magical with all the fabrics I use.
What were the challenges you had to deal with while preparing for the showcase?
Well, I really wanted the ‘What is Couture’ theme to be clear so our couture department worked overtime on that. The Lagos Fashion Week is a big platform and we wanted to shine on it. Our intention was to show our pieces on the runway as a form of interaction with the audience, to show them what is couture and get them to respond and see if it was couture to them. We got a great reception so I’m grateful for that.
Talk to us about your red beaded ballerina piece
I’m grateful for the reception to the dress but it’s a thing of beauty from a place of pain. I lost my big brother a year ago, and I created this dress from a big wound inside me. I felt so cut off and separate from him and it was such a raw pain, like a wound from a knife. This dress is a witness to my pain, and I chose to make something beautiful out of it.
Favorite moment from the show?
It has to be the euphoria I got from walking out to such a great reception, I’m still basking in it. This was a very big project, a lot of work and effort went into it, and I’m glad that it was worth it.
Thank you for your time
You are very welcome.