Overview of Lomé’s Hedzranawoe market.
A tale of two cities
“You always find the best stuff on the floor,” says Amah Ayivi, whose Le Marais vintage label is a favourite among Parisian fashionistas. Ayivi travels to his birth country of Togo, West Africa (near left) several times a year to hunt out second-hand treasures usually from the capital Lomé’s Hedzranawoe market.
Back in fashion
He ships four tonnes of vintage clothing back to Paris each time to upcycle and sell under his Marché Noir Lomé-Paris brand. After moving to France with his uncle in 1983, Ayivi grew up in Paris’s northern quarter, not far from the famous Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, which he would regularly comb for antique treasures.
Raman, a tailor in Lomé, mends garments that Ayivi has bought at the market. Clothes are cleaned, restored and usually customised before being sold in Paris.
Return of the mac
Rather than picking “traditional” African textiles, he looks for clothing that would have originally come from Europe – cast-offs donated to charity shops and imported by Western non-profits such as the Red Cross –effectively “repatriating” the clothes. Togo imported $54m worth of second-hand clothing in 2016.
Ayivi is especially drawn to old uniforms: boiler suits, military wear and boxy denim. “The greatest fashion designer,” according to Ayivi, is “the army. Nothing is a coincidence in these clothes. The smallest detail is important.” Right now, he’s buying a lot of blue worker jackets, “because they’re something that you can wear all the time”.
Ayivi outside his pop-up showroom. He often holds special one-off events around the city
Open for business
Making the final prep before the showroom opens to the public.
Walk this way
“For me, getting dressed is a game. I love to mix completely different things to make them live.“ After studying marketing, he pivoted from casting director to restaurateur before getting into dealing vintage fashion.
Cool and the gang
Ayivi and friends in Le Marais. “Today, for a lot of people, Africa is ‘cool’,” he says. “But I say Africa is not just cool. It has always been inspiring, rich, energetic and creative. It’s thanks to the young African generation that the image of the continent is changing, I think. This generation has no complexes and doesn’t at all accept the negative image of Africa.”
Inspiration-hungry design teams, stylists and fashion xlatest pop-up showroom; so-bad-they’re-good prints sit beside denim overalls and ethnic homewares.
A customer buys a pair of second-hand shoes. By revealing the pathways clothing takes after it’s discarded, Marché Noir points an accusing finger at fast fashion. “I bring [clothes] back to prove the fashion industry is going too far,” says Ayivi. Overproducing, in other words. “More people need to think about how to create a style with what we already have, with what’s already made.”
That's a wrap!
A Parisian fashion week party to celebrate the launch of the pop up.