Addishiwot is a fashion designer, photographer and jeweller that hail from Ethiopia. Her fashion statement makes a foot print, very impressive work from a woman of style. Here are excerpts of our interview with her.
Question- For the benefit of our audience who may not know you very well can you introduce yourself and tell us something you do, please?
Answer- my name is Addishiwot Asfawosen. I am a self-employed photographer, jeweler and clothe designer.
Question- Give us a few bio about yourself and where you’re from?
Answer- I am Ethiopian born, and I was brought up in Arba Minch, the southern part of Ethiopia, in the country side. I always admire the beauty of the land. We speak Amharic in Arba Minch, but Amharic spoken widely in Ethiopia. There are 82 languages and 200 dialects in Ethiopia.
Question-What motivated you in the first place to become a designer?
Answer- From an early age I always loved art. However, God is my true inspiration. Apart from that the traditional designs of Ethiopia and the way we live day to day also motivated me. Furthermore, everything is handmade as well as the country people inspired me with handmade wool and clays. Everything is art in Ethiopia.
Question- Describe your creative process?
Answer-My main creative process is sightseeing. Taking pictures of the beautiful scenery of the landscape and people. My ideas stem from developing a collage of a good-looking array of colours in picture form. Then I later sketch my ideas for my clothing and jewelerry.
Question- Now I would want you to work me through one of your favorite projects?
Answer- One of my favorite projects is that special moment when I concentrate on making my jewellery. It puts me in a meditative mode, and it also makes me balance, which allows me to focus more creatively.
Question- Tell me one of your favorite designers?
Answer- The name of the company is Wa Fama Batik, and my favorite designer is Dip Camara from Senegal. He is my teacher and tailor who make the batik clothing. He really inspires me greatly. We are partners and work as a team also with Rema Keza from Rwanda and Burundi she is also one of the designers. The three of us work together to establish beautiful African art all over the world.
Question- How much conceptions were you responsible for in your design roles?
Answer- We work collectively as a team. We infuse our ideas together. I don’t want to say its I alone who accomplish all this. We work together with individual ideas merging those concepts together to create beautiful works of art. The process of making the print design is done by Dip Camara. The professional photos are done by me as well as we are taught the art of jewellery making and print. Rema Keza as part of the team takes the project to Belgium and Mali. She also works with Dip Camara in Belgium. We all have input in promoting the works. I am now here in the UK trying to expand the awareness of our line in the photographic, clothes and jewellery department. I go to venues, in and out of Reggae events. I have been to Brockwell Park in London when they keep their festivals each year also to places like Birmingham, Leicester, Luton and apart from that France, Belgium, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali with the hope of more different countries.
Question- Describe the most collaborative creative team you’ve worked on?
Answer- The most collaborative team worked on is, I would say after the process of when the clothes are made. I get models together including myself to present the clothing range and jewellery. I normally take pictures of the accomplished works. I have to be very professional, and I focus on lighting as well as nature to present the clothes in different settings. Recently, I had the opportunity of going to fashion “Pride for the Motherland” event. I had models promoting Wa Fama Batik clothing and jewellery which were in Yaa Asantewaa Arts in London. It was my first presentation in London as far as an individual from the Wa fama batik team. I felt very proud and satisfied that the work is expanding and there is room for more to come, “so watch this space.” I keep in touch with the team as often as possible telling them of the progress.
Question- Which skills/ applications do you use daily (versus occasionally)?
Answer- As a means of reaching different cultures. I use the fact that I am blessed with the advantage of speaking: English, French, little Spanish, Amharic, Tigrigna and Oromiga as a communication tool, which is vital when it comes to business. Establishing a good service and understanding is important as I meet a lot of people on my travels, which promoting and selling. At the moment, being in the UK is a new experience for me. The UK welcomes people from all over the world so it is good to just use my skills at any given time.
Question- Tell me a success story where you saved your client money and how you did it?
Answer- Wa fama batik is not just about self, but we have a charity set up in Senegal and Ethiopia. When money is raised from the products, a certain percentage is given to the youths in order for them to get training in a particular field, to keep them busy thus jobs are created for them to have a better life. As we know children are the future it’s important to give back along the way.
Question- Tell me about a deadline you’ve missed and how you handled it?
Answer- I wouldn’t say I have missed a deadline as I am always mostly on target. However, there was one instance where I had stock which I left accidentally while being at a festival, and although I was disappointed at first it didn’t stop me from selling or promoting my jewellery or clothing. While having assistance on my stall, I went around selling my goods to the masses in and around the festival. Any failure also makes you more determine. So the out come was greater in the end.
Question- Who are some of your design heroes?
Answer- African clothing is my speciality, so I wouldn’t normally subject myself to just one hero, but my mail hero is Dip Camara. He is not just my teacher but a great inspiration to me. He helped me to broaden my skills and for that I am most grateful.
Question- Give me an example of a project where you disagreed with the client’s direction and tell me how you handled it?
Answer- I am always open to advice and learning, so I take on board any relevant information, which may help me to establish the business. Therefore, I always pride myself in saying, “I am working with the people for the people.”
Question- How do you stay on top of current design trends?
Answer- I love unusual designs, so I often go around shops observing the latest trend and competition. I personally try to always be more and more creative. I have recently been home to Ethiopia for a relaxing break and since being back on the UK I have a lot of inspirations. I am so focus more than ever to work with my brothers and sisters. There are two main outlets where my stocks are being sold. You can find me at a shop in Leyton, which is Drum Beat African culture shop, opposite Leyton Midland station. My Wa fama batik clothing is being displayed for sales there, and it’s a nice atmosphere my stock is also in Massive International London at West yard, Camden Lock Market, NW1 8AF.
Question- Your designs are they for both young and old, or they are for specific age group?
Answer- My designs are for everyone from all cultures and all age group all over the world.
Question- I saw some of your designs at the event “Passion for the motherland” worn by models, and they are quite unique, what makes your design different from that of other designers in your own category?
Answer-Apart from my designs being unique. They are handmade, meaning we don’t use artificial colours. We use natural colours, and all are made in Africa by professionals.
Question- I believe Africa designers are really talented, and they make a lot of statements with their designs in fashion, now my question is are they really exposed enough for the world to see there for the world to appreciate their designs and then becoming big names like Gucci and Armani to mention but few?
Answer- Personally there is always room for improvement Wa fama batik clothing has now established 10 years and though the market is competitive, we all know to reach a wider mass of people is what you put out you receive. African clothing on a whole could more establish it. People see the beautiful African designs they support by buying the garments and spread the word. However, in saying that each company has to put out as I said in order to achieve. If there was enough capital being made by us or good investors? Wa Fama Batik and many others who haven’t made it in the wider market could do so. There is room for improvement. As we say in Amharic kess be kess- step by step, and with perseverance and livication once you believe and know your works are of top quality eventually you will get good results.
Question- Where do you see your designs in the next five years?
Answer-Kess be Kess- step by step. I work in accordance with the most High I am just trying to get by in the competitive market. I could now say I desire in the next 5years to have shops not only in my countries worldwide establishing more charities is also important as time goes by but first it starts with commitment.
Question- If somebody walks up to you and says I’ve got an X- amount of money, which is not up to the amount you charge but the person really loves to wear one of your designs. What would you do?
Answer- It depends; it’s good to negotiate but if someone seriously would like an item of mine. I first look at my cash flow and weigh up my decision based on that. As I am not a difficult person, I would perhaps lead them to something more reasonable prised. Clients must understand the time and effort to come up with beautiful traditional garments, so that alone should be taken in order to account.
Question- what are your hobbies, how do you unwind from your daily activities?
Answer- In my spear moments I fully enjoy editing pictures, designing flyers for various events as well as traveling and meeting different people from all walks of life.
Question- Tell us some of your unique qualities?
Answer- I am very sociable, friendly, hardworking and very committed.
Question- who has the greatest influence on your life?
Answer- My greatest influence is the most high creator first and for most then my parents. They give me so much love and inspire me greatly.
Question- Who is the most important person in your life?
Answer- my mother
Question- Can you tell us the last word you hold on to like a quote you will always want to remember?
Answer- “My roots, I can’t forget my roots. My African roots, my Ethiopian roots, my roots keep me strong.” This quote was taken from Jacinth Selassie’s poetry books. “Know yourself.”