The Republic of Congo is a land of fashion enthusiasts – a fact that’s undeniable, seeing as the country is home to the sapeurs, one of Africa’s most dynamic fashion movements. Amid this creative landscape, one talented designer is taking African print fashion to the next level.
As the daughter of two of Congo’s rumba legends, Charles Tchicou and Pembey Sheiro, Tchiana Tchicou-Pembey has established her very own career as a successful fashion designer -and it’s safe to say that the creative apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Her extravagant African-inspired clothing line is entirely made from African print, and is named ‘Liputa Swagga‘, which translates as ‘African print swag’.
Tchicou-Pembey starting developing a personal relationship with fashion from the age of five. As a little girl she imagined designing her own clothes. At the age of 17 the Congolese-born artist moved to Europe with her family, and says that from this change she discovered a personal love affair with African print clothing which reminded her of her roots.
She began using wax and basin prints to remain closer to her Congolese roots and culture. The young artist completed a degree in social studies in order to please her father, but she always knew fashion would be the field in which she would thrive. And she did. Today the artist walks around with her sketch book which uses if inspiration strikes.
Her designs feature high shoulders that resemble wings, which the artist states express her need to be free. She refers to her high shoulder designs as ‘les ailes lipapu‘, which means ‘wing’ in Lingala. She prefers to use African print to design her clothing line in order to proudly reclaim her African roots. “Using African prints is a way for me to show off my colourful and beautiful African heritage,” she says.
Her style and designs are seen as overly extravagant when compared with the Republic of Congo’s more classic print designs, but the designs are highly appreciated in Europe. “That is what really pushed me to keep on designing these unique, 100% African designs,” she explains. Tchicou-Pembey also hopes that the sapeurs in the Republic of Congo could add a touch of African fashion to their style. She is dedicated towards working with sapeurs to encourage them to wear African prints as well as their usual French or Italian-inspired clothing, outlining that “Sapeurs are playing a major role in the growth of the tourism industry in Congo, we are becoming recognised due to this movement. I think it would be really great if more sapeurs could incorporate a touch of African print fabrics in their fashion movement. This will make more people aware of the beauty of African prints”.