Business

Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .Adwoa Ode-Dombrowe & Rosemary Dede, Malaika Designs Founders

“Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .” is a feature on Ladybrille® Magazine that is focused on entrepreneurs in Africa’s fashion industry, with a heavy emphasis on fashion designers. This feature highlights business principles, business practices, follows the money, discusses the challenges faced by fashion startups as well as offers pragmatic tips that should help stir the Ladybrille fashion entrepreneur towards success. If you would like to be featured, send an email to (editor@ladybrille.com), indicate the kind of fashion business you operate and what you intend to share with our audience that you feel will be beneficial to them.

Malaika Designs was born in spring of 2010 through the creative effort of Adwoa Ode-Dombrowe und Rosemary Dede. The name Malaika, means “Angel” or “Good Spirit” in Swahili. We called our fashion label Malaika, inspired by Adwoas daughter, who was born summer 2009 and who embodies all that Malaika Designs stands for – a loving fusion of Africa and Europe. The basic idea of our fashion line is to mix African fabrics with European cuts. All our items are handcrafted and produced from carefully selected fabrics. With our creations we strive to bring the vibrancy and vitality of African fabrics closer to fashion-conscious European man and woman.Besides our fashion line we produce complementing accessories. Our Female collection 2010 was produced in Berlin. Our next collection 2011 will also include a male and children’s line. Each year Malaika Designs produces only a limited collection – according to our guiding principle “Be Unique”.

Adwoa Ode-Dombrowe was born in Ghana, West-Africa. She grew up in Ghana and lives in Germany since 1996. When she was 5 years of age, she observed her auntie, who produced high-quality fashion in Ghana back then. While she watched her auntie her lifelong fascination with fashion was born. Since that time she is creating her own unique style. “My desire is to give people the opportunity to adorn themselves with my designs and to bring beauty into their lifes“. A characteristic of African culture is the special importance that is given to the way you dress – not only as an expression of individuality or social status, but especially as an expression of self-esteem and resilience. Malaika Designs creations embody that unique spirit for you to experience.

Rosemary Dede is also of Ghanaian descent. She was born in Germany and raised in Belgium. She studies Intercultural Relations Management. She co-founded several non-profit organizations that help young Africans find their way in their adopted country. Although Rosemary was born in Europe, she has always been drawn to Africa, especially Ghana. She admires African culture and knew from an early age that whatever career path she would choose, she would find a way to share her love for Africa with the world. “Growing up she used to watch her mother trying on her best African attire to go to church. Until this day, whenever she is choosing fabric, she always gets her mother’s advice”.

Adowa’s und Rosemary’s own intercultural background is the main influence on the creations of Malaika Designs. With their creations they want to convey the vitality, vibrancy and uniqueness of African fabrics, especially their patterns and colours to fashion-conscious Europeans.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us, briefly, how and why you both decided to strike out on your own as a fashion entrepreneurs?
Maliaka Designs: Our Label was launched in spring 2010. My cousin and I had talked a lot about the upcoming trend in Africa especially in Ghana when we both went back home on holidays. We wanted to wear more colors and were sick and tired of feeling like we were wearing uniforms all the time.

We both had a love for fashion and the African culture so we decide to just start to create clothes that we would like to wear and see how the outside worlds responds to it.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: It appears the outside world is responding well.Describe the exact goods and services you provide?
Malaika Designs:
We produce clothes and accessories for women, men and children. We also have a home collection.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the core mission of your business?
Malaika Designs:
Our mission is to sell these beautiful and colorful clothes and accessories to the women and men of the west. We want them to feel comfortable wearing vibrant and colorful clothes throughout the year and not only in the summer time. We also want people to understand that this type of fashion is not exclusively for people of color.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Towards that end, what clearly defined business goals do you have for your brand within the next two years?
Malaika Designs:
We want to be an established and stable brand in the coming years. We would like to be present throughout Europe and have our collection grow. We would like to become a brand that the regular customer has heard about but also can identify with .By than we would like to have our own boutique in Berlin.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: For your products/services, what is the distribution system you have in place to make sure customers get your products when and where they want it?
Malaika Designs:
We distribute through our own website and through an online boutique (Dawanda). We sell through other online boutiques in the US (BHF Magazine Africa) and very soon also in UK (on MyAsho.com).

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Wonderful! What has been your biggest business success to date?
Malaika Designs:
One of our biggest business was when last year we were invited by the CDU Chancellor Angel Merkel’s party to organize a Fashion show for their annual event. We got to meet the Chancellor and other important German politicians and we were so proud.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (That sounds like quite a moment). What has been your biggest fashion business mistake so far?
Malaika Designs:
I would not say that it was a mistake but an opportunity that we did not seize. We did not focus so much on the male and children’s collection in the beginning and because of that we missed a lot of potential customers.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What have you learned from that mistake?
Malaika Designs
:We have learned to seize every opportunity.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: As a business, what is the customer experience you want each customer to take away every time they experience your fashion brand?
Malaika Designs:
We want our customers to feel special and unique every time they buy a piece from our collection. That is why we try to change even a small thing in every piece.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are your plans for your brand’s expansion?
Malaika Designs:
We are planning on opening our own boutique and atelier in the coming years. We would first start with Berlin and Antwerp and then move on to Ghana.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you both believe are the key qualities of a brilliant (Ladybrille) entrepreneur?
Malaika Designs:
Be hardworking, not give up, confident, creative, innovative, open minded, keep on learning and getting better, open to critique and have love and passion for what you do.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Can you share with our audience some few tips on financial management of a fashion business?
Malaika Designs:
Put everything on paper, have a good accountancy, have a financial specialist check everything a least twice a year. Declare everything that can be declared i.e. phone bills, meetings, etc.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us the three ways you both have used social media to increase brand awareness and gain recognition for your brand?
Malaika Designs:
We have created a facebook page and we use it to communicate regularly with our customers and fans…we use it to stay in touch with the people. We have a LinkedIn page as well and we use that to be in touch with professionals in our branch.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: In your opinion, why do fashion businesses, especially African fashion businesses, fail?
Malaika Designs:
In my eyes, it is because of the lack of quality. The quality standard is not always as good as (that) of other brands. Also, I think that we fail because we lack diversity and innovation in what we do.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Interesting.) What do you both look for when you hire employees?
Malaika Designs:
We look for passion and perfection. All the people we work with are very passionate and are perfectionists and have eyes for details.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What drives you as a business owner?
Malaika Designs:
What drives me is the fact that I can do something that I love and that I can help make feel others better about themselves.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What makes you both get up to do what you do everyday instead of throwing in the towel and getting a 9-5?
Malaika Designs:
There is nothing like working for your own. The feedback that you get from people is what keeps you going. We love what we do and that’s why we keep working hard for it.

Visit Malaika Designs to view collection, shop or get more info.

Copyright © 2012 Ladybrille®, All rights reserved.

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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