My style, with Swaady Martin-Leke
“There is a magic to Africa of which its craftsmanship and inspiration are at the very foundation of luxury. YSWARA celebrates the richness of African cultural heritage in a vital and contemporary way by creating exceptional products made in Africa using our natural resources. The brand’s mission is to preserve, safeguard, enhance and promote the extremely diverse and rich African craftsmanship, culture and history. YSWARA believes in an authentic African luxury marrying both economics and social values. We call it the LUXE UBUNTU. ”
Meet Swaady Martin-Leke, the CEO of YSWARA tea who has been incredibly supportive of Vintage with Love and our efforts to support literacy projects through our vintage fashion sale. We asked Swaady to share some of her style secrets:
VWL: How would you describe your style?
SML: In one word: Versatile. I am as comfortable in an edgy urban look, as I am in a sophisticated evening gown.
VWL: What shaped your style?
SML: My multi-cultural upbringing had a lot to do with it. My heritage is French, African and American and I grew up in the US, France and Africa. Everyone in my family was always mad about fashion and I grew up reading glossy fashion magazines. I am definitely more daring than the rest of my family but we all share a real love for fashion.
VWL: How do you put a look together?
SML: I don’t like a top to toe designer look. I like to mix it all up and will, for example, wear YSL with something from H&M and another piece from a market in Notting Hill or Lagos.
VWL: Where do you shop?
SML: Everywhere! And it’s not always expensive. I also enjoy finding out of the way shops like the time I found a tailor in the Marais district in Paris who makes jackets for Thierry Mugler.
VWL: Who taught you about fashion?
SML: You can’t learn about fashion overnight. You need to accumulate layers and layers of fashion knowledge from reading about it and looking at it. Even if I’m not going to buy something, I love going into a Christian Lacroix store, just to look. I don’t need to buy fashion all the time, I see it as art and can simply appreciate the craftsmanship by looking at it. I don’t have to own it.
VWL: Do you buy African-designed fashion?
SML: I mostly wear African fashion if I go to an event where I know I will be photographed. I want to promote African design and if I was ever invited to the White House, I would definitely wear African design.
VWL: Do you wear vintage?
SML: I love vintage fashion – I always used to go to a little vintage store off the Champs Elysee where the owner even kept pieces for me. But she’s disappeared – I don’t know what’s happened to the shop. My chief reason for buying vintage is that the quality of the fashion made 20 years ago is simply much better than it is today. I’m also not a follower of fashion – I like what I like. If I go into a high street store or designer boutique, I can only buy what is in fashion now. In a vintage boutique, I can find pieces that suit my style.