It's one thing to have a mean shoe game -- and another thing to break into the shoe game!
Ghanaian born, British raised beauty, Afua Dabanka knows that all too well. The avid shoe collector decided to expand her passion from buying shoes to creating them with her own label, MO SAÏQUE. The handcrafted label, manufactured in Italy, seamlessly blends luxe elements with regal African textiles.
As you might expect, this combination has met with rave reviews, firmly solidifying Dabanka as a shoe designer to watch. We caught up with the London-based designer to talk about her craft, her product, and the highs and lows of being a young, Black designer.
ESSENCE.com: What influenced you to become a shoe designer?
AFUA DABANKA: My love affair with shoes! I spent so many hours obsessing over shoes and buying them, that I really just wanted to do something which I truly loved and made me happy, so I decided to follow my dreams and launch MO SAÏQUE.
ESSENCE.com: Was it a difficult career transition?
DABANKA: I think every transition you make is difficult, you leave the old and "safe" world for a new risky venture... scary and challenging, without a doubt! But I love every aspect of it.
ESSENCE.com: What do you enjoy most about it?
DABANKA: When I see how women adore MO SAÏQUE shoes, it reminds me of what a woman is all about. Those moments I can witness how a woman feels when wearing MO SAÏQUE is such a gift and brings joy to my heart. I think all woman need to feel empowered, sexy, and spoiled in their life. We shine when we have something we adore, and I shine when I see woman happy in my designs.
ESSENCE.com: How do you conceptualize and then create your collections?
DABANKA: I first decide on the color palette that sets the mood of the entire collection, I then develop the heroine for the collection. It takes me a few months to get the designs right. It's weird, but I have noticed that it is late at night, I visualize the designs which then form the collection. I sketch them, but put the designs away for some weeks. Just like red wine... I let the sketches "age" for some weeks, to be sure that these are the best. I then send the technical drawings to Italy for sampling and when I am ready for production I go to Italy. I always make sure there is one shoe in the collection my mum can wear...
ESSENCE.com: The shoe market is a crowded category, what makes your collection distinctive?
DABANKA: The Aya Adinkra symbol (symbol of endurance and resourcefulness) branded into the sole of the MO SAÏQUE shoe is what differentiates my shoes from other designers, because the meaning behind this imprint will follow you with every step you make. My designs should make every MO SAÏQUE woman feel strong, unstoppable and vibrantly sexy.
ESSENCE.com: Who do you consider your client or the MO SAÏQUE woman?
DABANKA: The MO SAÏQUE woman is defined by her style rather than her age. A woman with confidence, who wants to express herself and who stands for what she believes in.
ESSENCE.com: Our shoes are priced on the higher end, what goes into the price point?
MO SAÏQUE: Shoes are entirely Made in Italy, by highly skilled artisans using only the finest leathers and craftsmanship. MO SAÏQUE only use leather soles and lining to ensure that feet can breathe, it makes a difference... We only create a limited number of shoes per style, to ensure that every MO SAÏQUE woman feels extra special when wearing her shoes.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us a little bit about your current collection?
DABANKA: My vision for the autumn/winter collection was drawn from the concept of a Cosmopolitan Woman who lives a modern lifestyle filled with day to day activities from luncheon's with friends, high powered business meetings and gala's by night. The luxurious palette of green, vintage wine and bronze were the nappa leather chosen to remind us of the crisp autumn strolls through the park. While ebony black and smokey grey suede captures alluring and mysterious nights to the collections glamorous allure.
ESSENCE.com: Where can we find and buy your collection?
DABANKA: Online at www.mo-saique.com and from November 2011 you will be able to find MO SAÏQUE at the luxury boutique Temple Muse in Lagos, Nigeria. Watch this space for more exciting locations..