I recently caught up with Côte d’Ivoire’s iconic designer, Alain Niava, at his workshop in Abidjan’s Treichville neighborhood. Those who are new to Côte d’Ivoire, or to the African fashion scene, may not be familiar with Mr. Niava’s work. However, this Jacqueville native is renowned in Abidjan (and throughout the world) for his classic and elegant designs, which marry the finest European techniques and finishes with vibrant African fabrics, and inspired designs. Niava’s creations represent the best of contemporary African fashion –original, yet still rooted in a very African aesthetic.
The unassuming and understated Alain Niava, who has a background in ICT, may seem an unlikely candidate for fashion design. However, from his very first project –a now famous wedding dress– Alain Niava’s work has been a hit with local fashionistas.
Personally, I think Alain Niava’s ICT background prepared him for extraordinary attention to detail, which is appreciated by his clients and maximizes the impact of his superlative designs. His artistry and technical ability have earned Alain Niava numerous domestic and international accolades.
Another man would have allowed such success to go to his head and put his business on auto-pilot. Not Alain Niava. He continues to innovate and hone his craft, while remaining humble and available to clients and colleagues. Mr. Niava is known for taking an active role in mentoring younger designers and creating opportunities for them to develop their craft and showcase their own work.
Today, Alain Niava is also leading the charge to create a successful and sustainable ready-to-wear business in Côte d’Ivoire. He designs and produces uniforms for a select group of leading regional enterprises, including Ecobank and the new Air Côte d’Ivoire and is also the only designer in town to have his very own line of limited edition shoes and handbags. Mr. Niava’s accessories are marketed under the Alleen’s label and are eagerly scooped up by connoisseurs from across the globe the moment they are released.
A stop at Mr. Niava’s headquarters is always full of pleasant surprises. However, this latest visit was extra special, because the ninth collection of Alleen’s iconic handbags had just arrived –and there were even gorgeous shoes– combining fine leather and vibrant African pagne. What girl wouldn’t be delighted when presented with a rainbow array of fine leather goods, complemented by trendy pagne?!
I have to confess the first time I bought a handbag from Alain Niava, I was a little concerned. I loved the bag; but, would all those vibrant colors and contrasts go with my wardrobe? Mr. Niava gently reassured me that the handbag would become like a jewel, not only would it go with many more clothes than the usual solid-color bags, but it would be a way of jazzing up an otherwise nondescript ensemble. Guess what? He was absolutely right. My Alleen’s bag quickly became my “go to” bag for almost every occasion.
So, I was not a victim of any misplaced scruples this time around. Instead, I went straight for the bag I wanted and also had to complement it with a pair of shoes.
However, the shoes posed yet another dilemma. None of the shoes exactly matched any of the bags. What to do?! Well, Mr. Niava once again patiently persuaded me that the combination of different colors and motifs would make my outfits more interesting. Naturally, based on his previous success in predicting my satisfaction, not to mention the fact that I was already drooling over the shoes, I took both –and I couldn’t be more thrilled. As usual, he was absolutely right….
Whenever you visit Abidjan, you will definitely want to check out Alain Niava’s latest designs. The best spots to find them are listed below.
Where to find Alleen’s Bags and Shoes:
Tel: +(225) 21-25-10-75
Fax: +(225) 21-25-97-31
Mobile: +(225) 07-08-36-30
Félix Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, Duty Free Shopping
Ettyka Abidjan Plateau, Rue de Commerce, Galerie du Novotel
Tel: +225 09447227, 07767070