Who’s HauTe: Interview with Amah Ayivi of Comptoir General
As Paris is the fashion capital by excellence; Parisian women are known to be both elegant and trendy while remaining natural, HauTe sits down with Amah Ayivi to discuss one of the most Fashionable Places to be in Paris at the moment. The question is what is the place about?Most importantly, what makes this interesting spot African- inspired? Let’s discover a great man and a special place showing us a new face of Paris in the guise of Comptoir General!
HauTeFashionAfrica: Amah, we would like to know you better….
Amah: My name is Amah Ayivi, I was born in Togo and came to Paris when I was 11 years old in order to study here. My studies were about marketing, then I became a casting director, this has been my principal activity for more than 10 years… I have always been interested in fashion; it’s been a kind of special feeling since very young. I always wanted to cultivate the difference, for example, I love vintage clothes, as it is a way to have your own style with mixing it with new stuff.
HFA: About difference… Tell us a bit about this hat you always have on? It’s true that this is something very special but bizarrely reminds me of Africa. Can you tell us its story?
Amah: (Laugh) This ‘strange’ hat is called a « calot », if it reminds you of Africa this is because it is the kind of hat that powerful men wear, for example, it could be the American marines or those African dictators like Mobutu or important religious men.
HFA: Well! We love it! Concerning your own website La Fabrique Du Style , can you explain what the concept is and how idea came about?
Amah: I though it’d be a better way to answer and communicate with clean and fashionable men, to advise them concerning their style… People often ask me where do I buy my clothes, how much is it, etc… And I see that there is nothing effective to guide them in their purchases and to give them good advice. There are things like GQ or Optimum but it is not really for the middle range and also you don’t really have a lot of men bloggers. We can hardly find fashion blogs talking both about women and men, but we really need more fashion websites to guide males.
That was how the idea came about, I wanted to create a site that is at the heart of fashion but also speaking of the everyday life, places I love, good deals, etc. In parallel, I created the first guide dressing for men; it takes place once a quarter, in order to allow men to be chic and elegant without spending too much money. I am also looking to open an online store on my website!
HFA: Wow, it’s filled with beautiful projects! Precisely about everyday life what is your link with this fabulous place called « Le comptoir général » and what is the concept, the strong link with Africa?
Amah: At the beginning, I was simply a client, I used to go there to have a brunch on Sunday with some friends, and gradually I met the boss who became my friend and wanted me to be the RP of the place, I had the image he wanted to convey. He wanted to host Africa and diversify, tell Africans that there is a place where they can feel at home. This place opened to the public one year ago, and I absolutely love the concept, Le Comptoir General promotes solidarity, we are linked to ONG, we are a kind of charity shop, and all profits are used for charitable purposes such as building schools and hospitals in Africa. It is also an eco-friendly place; The food is organic and biodegradable products are used.
The place is run by Secousses (more information on www.secousses.org ), which is an association which is responsible for several projects like Papa Courant which is a Congolese artist doing world music with a strong African and political sense, singing joy and love, who is also planning to make a buzz during the French political election.
Here some videos about him, enjoy
HFA: What sort of events and activities take place here?
Amah: We organise a sappeur fashion show once a month with Congolese sappeurs and also white sappeurs. Every Sunday we organise the « Cinebrousse » which is projections of short movies or documentaries concerning Africa or Made by Africans, the last one was a feature on bilism. We also have « Le centre des objets perdus » where we sell objects made in Africa, it could be anything. Of course, there is a bar and a brunch every Sunday, the music is very cool and you feel at home! Everybody is welcome! On the first floor we opened a charity library, people give us books and we sell it at a very cheap price and all profits are for associations. A few weeks ago, we opened a vintage store because we want the place to be global and also promote African designers!
Currently, there is an exhibition called « Françafrique ». Françafrique refers to African dictators (like Bokassa, Blaise Campeole, Sassou N’Guesso) who collaborate with French presidents (De Gaulle, Pompidou) for their mutual interest, dictators who stay at the head of the country and France to loot the African resources.For example, we are exhibiting wax with which African dictators do their propaganda.
HFA: Wow! It is definitely the place to be! One more question dear Amah, what do you think about the evolution of African fashion?
Amah: In Africa, people love to be well-dressed, even if they’ve got no money, they care about the fabrics, the colours. One important lesson i learnt as a child was that of my parents teaching me to be well-dressed in order to be respected. Concerning the future of African fashion, I think we have to keep the authenticity, make it subtle and refined. We should be inspired by old African tribes and be enriched by the mix of cultures.To give a better place to African fashion and develop it, one of the most important things to do is to open more fashion schools in Africa! It would be great to teach the students, help them to realize, channel their creativeness and finance them. International fashion can only be enriched with the mixture of cultures.
HFA : Thanks for your time Amah
Amah: You’re most welcome.
If you’re in Paris or ever visit, the address for Comptoir General is: 80 quai de jemappes, Paris, 75010
– Massiva Aliane