popular
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

A New Documentary Explores French Fashion Designer’s African Roots

The African origins of Olivier Rousteing, creative head of Balmain, are revealed in a new film and article.

The last few days have been a very public emotional rollercoaster for Olivier Rousteing, 34, the visionary creative mind behind French high fashion brand, Balmain. The New York Times published an article earlier this week unveiling the content of the forthcoming documentary about his life, Wonder Boy.


The film is directed and produced by Anissa Bonnefont–a woman Rousteing met while purchasing his stately Parisian apartment from her mother. Bonnefont's initial reaction to Rousteing is what sets the tone for the subject matter of the film. As she tells the New York Times:

"I just thought it was so unusual for this mixed race guy to succeed like this...to hear his story would be very necessary for our country because of all the issues around immigration. People need to see the reality of how you can achieve a dream and come from nothing. That's the American story, but it's not the French story. In France where you come from, what family, what school—that is who you are."

As the article unfolds, it is clear that the idea of identity, blackness and being mixed-race in today's social and political climate are at the heart of Wonder Boy–not the glitz and glamour of the fashion world. It is a peculiar story given that Rousteing is a light-skinned French man who was adopted as a baby and skyrocketed to the upper echelon of the fashion world, becoming creative director at Balmain at just 25.

As the face and image of an iconic brand, Rousteing felt that it was about time he actually understood himself. Given his adoption, he never knew his birth parents. In the documentary, he finds out the truth of his origins and that–despite his complexion and hair–he is not of mixed race.

"She was Somalian and he was Ethiopian, which means I am African-African," Mr. Rousteing said. "I'm black." It's discombobulating discovering, in your 30s, that the myths you told yourself your entire life, even if you knew you had made them up, were all wrong."

The film, though it is about a high profile man, seems to unpack aspects of modern living and racial diversity that are at the core of many people's lives. It also speaks to an often misunderstood concept of blackness and that lighter complexions always denote mixed race. The issues of origin and color are particularly nuanced in France–due to its colonial past and citizenship laws–as was on the world stage during their 2018 World Cup victory.

In response to the film, Rousteing had a positive outlook on the revelation and on himself. Though the article is prompting some passionate responses on Twitter, he says this:

"After the movie, I started to like myself more," he said. "Instead of feeling like we had to fight for everything, instead of having a Balmain Army — us against the world — I want to bring people in. I want everyone to understand you can have the dream, without perfection. Inclusivity is speaking to not only the fashion elite."

The film is scheduled to play on French channel Canal Plus for one night on October 16 and open in theaters in November. It is not yet certain if it will show internationally.

popular
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Responds to Trump's Claims of Being Snubbed for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says that Trump's issue with the Nobel Peace Prize recipient 'must be taken up in Oslo, not Ethiopia'.

UPDATE 01/13: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is currently in South Africa to seek mediation from President Cyril Ramaphosa in light of the deadlock with Egypt over a potential hydropower project on the Nile River.

At a press briefing in Pretoria, Ahmed responded to questions around President Donald Trump's recent claims to having been snubbed for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize although he was allegedly instrumental in "saving Ethiopia", according to the BBC.

Last year, Ahmed was awarded the prize largely for his role in ending the two-decade long border conflict with neighbouring country Eritrea.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo by Abena Boamah.

Photos: Here's What Happened at Daily Paper & Free the Youth's Design Talk for Accra's Young Creatives

Founders of the popular brands discussed all things African streetwear in a conversation facilitated by OkayAfrica and moderator Amarachi Nwosu.

Last week, Amsterdam-based, African-owned streetwear brand Daily Paper and Ghanaian streetwear label Free the Youth held a talk for young creatives at the Mhoseenu design studio in Accra, Ghana.

Moderated by Melanin Unscripted creator Amarachi Nwosu and presented in partnership with OkayAfrica, the design-based conversation explored everything from sustainable practices in manufacturing, to the overall evolution of streetwear globally. The founders of Free the Youth, which was been called Ghana's number one streetwear brand, expanded on how they've been able to build their audience, and shared details about their community-based initiatives.

They event, which took place at the Daily Paper Pop-up Store in Accra last Friday, drew a fashionable and creative-minded crowd ready to partake in a design discussion between West Africa and Europe.

Check out some of the action that took place at the Daily Paper x FYT event below, with photos by Abena Boamah.

Find more upcoming OkayAfrica events here.

Keep reading...
popular
Still from YouTube.

Yemi Alade Enlists Djimon Hounsou for New Music Video 'Remind You'

The veteran Beninese actor stars in the sultry music for Yemi Alade's latest single.

Yemi Alade shares her latest music video for her single "Remind You," and it stars none other than celebrated Hollywood actor Djimon Hounsou.

"Remind You" is a sultry R&B track from the singer's latest album, 2019's Woman of Steel. The vibrant music video, directed by Ovie Etseyatse, sees the singer gallivanting in an empty mansion in various elegant gowns. Honsou graces the screen throughout the video as well, but the two don't meet until the very end, when things take a funny and unexpected turn.

Keep reading...
Interview
Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

Interview: Afro Nation Festival's Smade On Unifying Africans Across the Continent & Diaspora

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Afro Nation co-founder Adesegun Adeosun aka Smade to talk about how it all started and what the future holds.

Within minutes of speaking with Adesegun Adeosun, it's apparent that Afro Nation is much more than an urban music festival.

The Afro Nation co-founder, better known as Smade, talks passionately about connecting Africans across the globe. In less than a year since its debut edition, Afro Nation has successfully done this and gone on to establish itself as the largest festival celebrating African culture on the continent and in the diaspora.

This year, Afro Nation will touch down in Puerto Rico for the first time over spring break—from the 18th to the 21st of March—on the beach of Balneario de Carolina. Headliners will include Burna Boy, Chronixx, Davido, 2Baba, Naira Marley and many more.

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Smade to talk about Afro Nation, how it all started and what the future holds.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.