Power Women of the Diaspora: Africa Fashion Week Founder Uses Passion to Rebrand Continent

Adiat Disu talks power of social media in expanding reach of international designers

Adiat Disu, director, African Fashion Week New York (Image: Disu)

Adiat Disu (@AdiatDisu), a native of Lagos, Nigeria, is a woman on a mission to spread awareness about the value African fashion brings to international markets.

When Disu noticed persistent stereotypical images of African fashion within the global fashion industry and a lack of African designers represented during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, she founded Adirée, a premier communications and branding firm, in New York for African and global business leaders in multiple industry segments, from entertainment to fashion, politics, media, and government sectors. 

The firm launched Africa Fashion Week New York (AFWNY) as a platform to re-brand Africa and position it as a continent that also produces luxury products and services.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Disu to talk about how social media helped create conversations about the African fashion industry and her advice for people looking to make a difference in Africa without hopping on a flight.

BlackEnterprise.com: How have you used fashion to dispel myths about Africa?

Adiat Disu: With the motto, ‘Luxury Brands Focused Globally,’ Adirée focuses on re-branding Africa, as a destination for luxury brands, and has taken exclusive brands from Africa and placed them on nationally esteemed and recognizable stages via media placements including CNN International, Los Angeles Times,  Destiny Magazine (South Africa), Elle (Bulgaria), Black Enterprise, Washington Post, and Huffington Post exposing emerging luxury brands from Africa.

Through partnerships, quality productions, digital/social campaigns, and media placements Adirée is establishing the way consumers should view products from Africa (i.e. Made in Angola, Made in Zimbabwe, or Made in Nigeria).

How do you use social media to attract designers from various countries to participate in AFW?

Seventy percent of our designers each year are from Africa and find out about us through our online activities. Posting behind-the-scenes production, the team, and postproduction results reassure designers that they are acquiring a quality platform to launch from. This also provides credibility to the work we do.

How can Africans in the diaspora use social media to help dispel myths and stereotypes about Africa?

The art of storytelling is the key to social media—sharing news, images and experiences that showcase the positive things about Africa and what comes from it.

One of the ways in which we work to achieve our mandate of purchasing fashion from Africans is by educating the world and raising public awareness about why it’s important and why doing business in Africa is a global treasure.

From digital campaigns like “Where Fashion Began” or Luxury Untamed, to beautiful Instagram videos of our team working at a production and/or behind the scenes during a photoshoot, to Facebook and Twitter updates on African fashion news or styles from a region, Adirée turns to social media to share each African brand’s story.

What social media tips can you provide for professionals looking to establish cross-cultural collaboration in Africa?

Subscribe to news-related sites, fan pages, and twitter accounts of those within your field of interest from the continent or doing business on the continent.

Track conversations related to Africa and your industry. Hashtags and Google alerts are your best friend. Through tracking, you’ll be able to identify the influencers and major players within the industry and become involved with their events, updates and the latest news.

Kandia Johnson is a freelance communications strategist, brand builder and world traveler who also loves fashion, food and wine. She’s traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Thailand to Africa. When she’s not helping clients create engaging communication campaigns, she’s writing about her globe-stalking adventures for her blog LadybugsInWonderland.com and Travelista.TV.

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