Africa’s colourfulness had taken hold of the world, with an overall clash of prints and patterns, vivid colours and bold prints. Some of us talk about trends, but Perrine Bah, best known as the WaxupAfrica co-founder, couldn’t be happier. Hence, Perrine Bah and her business partner, Caroline Akwei, take advantage of trends to value African craftsmanship for its own sake. “If anyone should buy one of our drawstring bags, it will be as a result of its quality, its aesthetics, and because it is fashionable. However, it is still a fair trade.”
Born in Geneva to a Cameroonian father and a French mother, Perrine keeps her connection with Africa through her multiple ventures. With Caroline Akwei, she launched four years ago WaxupAfrica, an online retailer specialising in drawstring bags, baby slings, headwraps, and ready-to-wear accessories. Then in 2016, Perrine and Caroline founded the pop-up store Africanity. Last but not least, Perrine is co-responsible for all vendors of Afrodyssée, the annual international market of African trends.
Constantly on the move, as soon as Africanity pop-up store ended, Perrine was already plunging in the preparation of the annual Afrodyssée. The pieces from the market were stunning, and the runway was outstanding. However, this edition of Afrodyssée was more than fashion as it partnered with the UN to hold the theme of People of African Descent with panel discussions on Afro-feminism and the media and minorities. The event is fairly new on the scene, but its success already ranks it as one of the flagship events of its kind in Europe alongside London’s Africa Fashion Week, Paris’ Natural Hair Academy, and Brussels’ Ethno Tendance.
As to Africanity, the physical store was open in Geneva from October to January. Quite long for a pop-up store, but too short for Perrine’s aspirations – a permanent store requires significant funds. In the meantime, Africanity will keep popping up at festivals to offer brands that they love.
“People are always surprised to see high-quality African craftsmanship, but this is a cliché that I would like to break!” Says Perrine. Therefore, she finds it crucial, whether it comes to WaxupAfrica, Africanity, or Afrodyssée, that they are a guarantee of high quality. “We have to be diligent because we have to honour Africa!” She says. Though she deplores how African know-how is derisively linked to this idea of the African who needs help. As commendable as she finds charity, she believes the message can harm the product. "Now, with this trend, we have the power to balance the scene in Africa to position itself as a pledge of quality!"
While juggling many hats, Perrine’s mission is crystal clear. “The goal is not creating the biggest brand or the biggest runway; it is simply to enter certain sectors to bring the Good News: Africa is there, Africa is astonishing, Africa is high quality, and Africa has its place!” Hence, her aspirations lead her to projects like; “Musically, a line-up concert gathering like-minded artists planned to take place twice a year.” This is indeed another way to shine a spotlight on Africa.