A visit to Cape Town South Africa many years ago convinced me to emigrate from Cannes Southern France, where I was born and raised. Cape Town has since become very cosmopolitan but has still kept its identity and I love being here.
I have no formal art or craft training but always had an interest in fashion.
I started 20 years ago, designing clothes using Vlisco and African wax fabric before it became fashionable. I then opened a shop called "Ethno Bongo" in Houtbay Cape Town and soon had a following. I then created some African jewellery to compliment the clothes which at the time, was mainly tribal and not always adapted to our European visitors’s sense of esthetics or wearability.This leaded me to a re think of the traditional African jewellery with a Western esthetic. It was the start of the "Dolce & Banana" brand, the quirky name (I thought) perfectly fitting for this African-inspired bold, glamorous jewelry. I used the name for 12 years until Dolce & Gabbana sued for diluting the brand’s name. Now we’re called "...&Banana" to calm the designer’s fears! Although the lawsuit caused tremendous stress, it also generated terrific publicity, resulting in a welcome international media attention (even Vogue mentioning us!)
The jewellery has now evolved into ‘Artisan Jewellery’. I focus on the creative composition of organic materials to counter balance the use of precious metals (such gold, diamonds etc) in ‘Fine Jewellery’. I design for the more mature woman wanting to be noticed for originality rather than bling...Noblinglamour!
I have invaluable help from a team of African ladies who live in Imizamo Yethu Informal settlement in Houtbay. Some of the women need guidance to bring the concept of the designs to the actual jewellery. These artisans initially work from my premises, the more experienced ones work from their homes. During the design and production process, we exchange contemporary and traditional inspirations and techniques, but keep the African flair and palette.
I recently expanded our creative range. The latest addition to &Banana brand are textile masks and animal trophy heads. Poking fun at the real thing of which I am not a fan! The textile African masks are not as grim as the traditional ones and make stylish yet quirky wall décor. I use off cuts of handpainted local fabrics, palm leaves, shells and lots of Africa’s inspiration.