Prints should be a staple in anyone wardrobe, a printed garment can be the centrepiece of a great outfit. They can clearly define someone's style or emotions, they have the power to uplift ones outlook and general vibe of the day.
Printed garments can be a powerful piece of the wardrobe and when deciding which brand to purchase when it comes to printed shirts, customers are really looking for a connection to a story of the print they choose to adorn their bodies. It speaks volumes to one's personality.
One brand that is crafting an epic tale of both travel and culture is Allëdjo. Crafted from the mind of Kassim Lassissi, Allëdjo excites to fill a space of beautifully crafted silk print shirts inspired by travel. Kassim forms each collection based on a destination and the culture that inhabitants it. Their prints are vibrant, organic in nature and exudes luxury in their craftsmanship and design. Kassim is based in France and travels to Africa has based the production of his garments in Africa, aiming to support the local artisan's talent that is abundant throughout the contentment.
ND: Can you walk us through your journey within fashion before you started Alledjo?
I have always been attracted to the world of fashion. At first, I wanted to be a model and I watched Fashion TV all day long. Then I wanted to work in fashion communication. My parents weren't very keen on the idea, so I went to business school while working as sales associates to many French & Italian luxury brands.
ND: What were the driving forces behind starting Alledjo?
From internships to ill-suited jobs, I was accumulating failures. One day, I started to analyze my driving forces: I have a passion for fashion, but no brand seemed to attract me - I have a passion for travel, for cultures, but no job related to it spoke to me. In addition, I analyzed the market, and thought they were missing a brand that would showcase a variety of silk printed shirts - As I couldn't find a place in anything that existed, I launched Allëdjo which is the fusion of fashion and culture. Wanting to add a more personal touch, I decided to bet on the human capital of the African continent. Thus came the mission of Allëdjo: “To give visibility to African craftsmanship while celebrating the cultures of the world.”
ND: We loved the connection between your mother tongue Yoruba and the brand name. How has your culture and the Yoruba language influenced Alledjo?
I was born of Yoruba parents. This culture is a deep part of me because I grew up shaped by that environment. Every weekend, there was a ceremony: a wedding, a baptism, a funeral... and I would see the family gather in Porto-Novo (former capital of Benin) dressed in beautiful outfits: "Aso Ebi", literally family clothing (printed, embroidered), adorned with gold ornaments all with a simple veil to cover their head and neck - it was a fashion show. I was amazed by these outfits which differed from ceremony to ceremony. Others opted for a Bùmbá suit: Tòbí, aṣọ and a Gèlè and they were transformed into such beautiful women. The simple addition of a Gèlè changed everything. The importance of print definitely influenced my creativity.
Also, yorubas are known to be great traders and travelers. My mother travelled the world from a very young age for her activities, in Africa, Europe and Asia. I think I developed my interest in foreign cultures at an early age.
Allëdjo invokes print, travel and cultures. The brand is the source of everything that is unique to me and especially of my openness to the world.
Bùmbá: : a buttonless shirt with a round neckline,
Tòbí: a short loincloth tied around the waist and tied with thread or hip beads,
aṣọ : a relatively long loincloth (below the knees) tied around the waist and on the tòbí,
Gèlè : scarf, a loincloth tied around the head according to Yoruba techniques.
ND: Can you explain how the concept of destination collections formed and how you have adapted the design process to hit this model?
My first ever passion above and beyond anything is travel. What makes me vibrate is the discovery of the cultures, the people, their cuisines, their lives, their languages, the architectures… - Travelling speaks to my soul, the energy generated turns into emotions that I translate into physical products – This is a mysterious design process to me, that I can barely comprehend myself.
ND: We have been watching Alledjo for a while now, and the brand's prints are STUNNING! It has also been amazing to watch how you craft collections with diversity in styles and designs. How do you go about creating a cohesive range while ensuring each piece is unique?
Thank you – I appreciate your kind words - I design those pieces with the key words that are close to me – Fluidity, Movement & who I see wearing it.
The rest just come naturally. Prints talk for themselves, thus I go solely for minimalist cuts. Less is always more.
ND: It's challenging for any emerging brand to break into the international market, how have you tackled scaling the business to be competitive in an increasingly crowded menswear space?
It’s very challenging – I try not to pay attention to the international competition. Simply because we don’t have the same ethics, the same resources or the same mission – Allëdjo’s mission is to embody the passion of travel through ethical and fashionable garments, Made In Africa - I started this brand, because I saw something was missing, I will continue running my own race, until the break through.
ND: It's great to see Alledjo support local production and craftsmanship. Local production is a rare sight in western markets. Can you explain how the Alledjo production model works within the local industry and how this move has improved your business?
I would not say there is fashion industry in Africa, but rather an ecosystem –
Tailors do not have a highly valued status there, yet they are the ones who dress the society. Allëdjo is a brand that has an ethic as much for the human capital it mobilizes as for its products. Africa is full of talented artisans and nobody has ever bet on them - When launching my business, I wanted something that could help my fellow Africans for long-term employment while helping me achieving our international goals. We currently source our fabrics and produce in Dakar. This enables us to support the local textile suppliers and the tailors. Customers come to us because they connect to the story of the brand - It is important for the customer to know the history of each piece. Where does the clothing come from? How was it produced? Who produced it ? All these questions are very important these days.
ND: What would be your advice for others looking into Africa as a viable landscape for craftsmanship and production?
The textile factories are not as developed as in Europe or Asia – Yet there are some opportunities there, and the world is watching us as the prices are getting higher in Asia. If many of brands started to invest there, I know it would surely change rapidly, and there would be a rapid growth.
ND: COVID-19 has affected the fashion industry worldwide, can you give us a snapshot of the how the pandemic currently impacts Allëdjo as a business?
We were lucky enough that while the covid-19 was rapidly spreading in the rest of the world, we finished producing the summer collection and the visual contents. We are an e-commerce brand so we were not penalized by the closing of retails stores but people just did not buy during the lockdowns - Also, there were many restrictions for international shipping. For instance, our shipping company stopped delivering to the USA & ITALY at the peak of the spread of the virus
ND: How are you changing your business and brand to tackle the future ahead of COVID-19?
We took time to reflect on how we do business, reflected on our values and made sure our branding is aligned. We still live in uncertain times, we are based in Paris, and our products are produced in Africa – and the borders need to re-open - We are testing and redesigning our strategies. There is always a silver lining in these moments. Nothing is set nor clear cut at the moment.
ND: We are excited to see what develops from Africa regarding menswear and the future of the fashion industry. What difference do you see within menswear contexts between the traditional western approach to style and the influence from African cultures?
Prints have always been part of the African cultures – Truth to be told, I am just busy running my own race and do not watch what is being done elsewhere – It helps me staying focused on why I have started this! Men love to dress, and there were not a large variety of fashionable garments., at least to my taste!