French Deal designer and founder, Steeven Kodjia, has created an inspiring new collection called Volume 4 to celebrate Africa's elegance. His goal is to get people to reconsider the way they may have seen the continent before. Additionally, the founder thought it was important to highlight other Black artists in his work, and supported them by using all Black models, and photographers.
Volume 4 , shows a return to Steeven Kodjia's origin in Africa's Ivory Coast, where the collection was filmed and photographed. The strong pieces represent the region's bold aesthetics. The collections standout fabric, which dominates the line, is known as the Baoulé Loincloth. Originally from Côte d’Ivoire, the Baoulé loincloth is a traditional fabric inherited from the Ashanti kingdom. Authentic African textile culture, the weaving of the Baoulé loincloth is meticulously carried out by weavers, with warp threads dyed with indigo. The brand reinvented the traditional loincloth with a modern twist, combining African and French cultures which can be seen on the pieces' sleeves and torsos.
Steeven created a fashion film to tell his story, which was narrated by his mother, enabling viewers to journey to Africa. The French Deals' Volume 4 honors Africa and tells us Queen Abla Pokou 's wonderful and painful tale as she was ready to sacrifice herself to save her people. Women's power is put under the spotlight at the heart of the Bau.
Portrait of Steeven Kodjia
IRK: Your collection is so amazingly diverse and hits on so many elements of fashion and African culture, What started your design inspiration?
Steeven Kodjia: I realized that I had not yet reached artistic maturity in my previous collections. Something was missing, and I realized that I needed to draw inspiration from my cultural roots, which was a way for me to fully express my personality and vision. IRK: Tell us about the film , it is so gorgeous and well filmed and edited and is there an English version for a wider audience?
Steeven Kodjia: In the impetus of my "VOLUME 4" collection, it was important to complete the project from a photographic as well as a video point of view. This return to my roots very well illustrates the approach undertaken, this desire to pay homage to the history of my people and the African continent. Our cultural heritage is rich and very powerful, I feel the need to carry the message and share my culture with the whole world. This Fashion Film was shot in the city of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, it illustrates the history of the Baoulé people. Our Fashion Film "THE ODYSSEY OF THE BA-WOULI PEOPLE" received the "BEST FASHION" Award at the Fashion Film Festival of LA JOLLA in the United States. There is the version with subtitles in English, the voice over will remain with the Baoulé language because it illustrates once again our linguistic heritage which is very important in the transmission of values.
IRK: What story do the garments themselves tell? How did this connection inspire the story told on film?
Steeven Kodjia: The main fabric of the VOLUME 4 collection is the Baoulé loincloth, through this fabric our clothes represent the African cultural heritage. They wear, they breathe Africa and travel all over the world as a spokesperson of a part of the African culture. It is the natural extension that has contributed to the realization of our Fashion Film.
IRK: How the styling accurately depict or translate modern African dress? and the Ivory coast?
Steeven Kodjia: What I tried to do was above all to propose a masculine elegance by bringing in different ingredients from my culture but also from all my influences. This gave life to VOLUME 4.
IRK: Details and significance regarding ‘CARACTERE GRAFFITI’ – What are the words seen in graffiti on this button down? How does this contribute to the story being told?
Steeven Kodjia: The words inscribed on the CARACTERE GRAFFITI shirt are all the words that carry the values of our maison: Values, Leitmotif, Visions and Ambitions.
IRK: How can the press release be tied into what is going on in our world today especially in the U.S. with rising racial tensions? How can this collection make a powerful statement regarding the relevancy of its release?
Steeven Kodjia: I think a brand like ours comes at the right time because Afro-descendants, the international African diaspora and Africans living on the continent need to have brands in different areas with which they can identify. Brands in which values will be shared and respect will be accorded to them. They need to be able to choose brands in different areas. Unfortunately, it is sad that we are still victims of racial tensions even now.
IRK: What is your take on racism in the world and can you share any thoughts on how to rise above racism?
Steeven Kodjia: Unfortunately, racism has been around for many centuries. Our world was built that way. Men must learn to respect each culture, because each person has its own culture and no culture is superior to the other. They are just different ways of living compared to the geographical area where we come from on this planet. Overcoming racism will first of all require cultural respect for peoples and then free economic development in underdeveloped or developing countries, because the image of these countries is very often negative due to poverty. This contributes to this climate of superiority for certain populations, and thus makes it more difficult to overcome racism.
IRK: We love the blend of Italian, Senegalese, or Indian savoir-faire with [the] French excellence of Entreprises du Parimoine Vivant- What is the connection/meaning behind blending these cultures?
Steeven Kodjia: A cultural marriage, a Métis culture that knows how to do great things well together. IRK: What drove your passion for hip hop? Who is your favorite hip hop artist?
Steeven Kodjia: What motivated my passion for Hip Hop culture is the Hip Hop style of Dance, which I first fell in love with by watching the movie "BREAKING 84". My favorite artist is the rapper JAY Z.
IRK: As a teenager were you listening to American rappers or French rappers?
Steeven Kodjia: I listened to both, but much more American rappers. IRK: What hip hop great would you love to dress and why?
Steeven Kodjia: I'd like to dress a lot of Hip Hop artists, I'm not going to mention the name of a particular artist though, lol. :)
I live Hip Hop culture every day so working with one or more artists that I appreciate belonging to the Hip Hop culture would be really enriching and motivating in terms of experience. I will bring and push my culture forward, that's what stimulates me.
IRK: When you are creating - what music do you have playing ?
Steeven Kodjia: I listen to French Deal playlists. We create playlists that reflect my musical universe and the musical vibe I create with. There is constantly music in my creative studio.
IRK: Are all your fabrics sourced in Africa, if yes what parts ? & are all your pieces made in Africa?
Steeven Kodjia: Not all my fabrics are from Africa, only some of them. The fabrics that come from Africa are made in Africa, but not our pieces. It's something I'm working on. The pieces with African fabrics are the pieces: SAKASSOU; QUEEN POKOU; PERFECT COMOÉ; ASHANTI; ESSENTIEL PAGNE; EVOLUTION PAGNE ... IRK: Who is your favorite designer? how do they inspire you?
Steeven Kodjia: I don't have a favorite designer but I really like Ozwald Boateng's work, his brand image and the success of his project is inspiring.
IRK: Who is your favorite celebrity that you would love to see wearing French Deal?
Steeven Kodjia: I don't have a favorite celebrity, but if I had to mention a celebrity I would like to collaborate with it would be: Michael B Jordan. IRK: Were the Congo les Sapeurs an inspiration for you? What are your thoughts on the les Sapeurs?
Steeven Kodjia: The Congolese sappers influenced me during my childhood because they contributed to the promotion of many luxury houses or tailor's houses on the African continent. The sapeurs are living for fashion and this movement is part of the African culture, it has evolved according to the different times.
IRK: Can you share 5 tips for emerging designers?
- Courage - Pugnacity - Listening - Reflection - Open-mindedness
IRK: Can you share 5 additional tips for Black designers?
- Staying faithful to his ideas - Follow your instincts - Don't be afraid to fail - Surround yourself well - Working hard
VOLUME 4 FASHION FILM
A film by Steeven KODJIA
Creative Director: Steeven KODJIA
Directed by: Urivaldo LOPES
Models: DSD MODEL AGENCY
Music by: Still Nas , Lerie SANKOFA & Armand N'GORAN
Translater: Valentine Ahou KOUAME
Interpreter 1: Madeleine ZOUNDI
Interpreter 2: Justine Boni AMOIN
Interpreter 3: François Kouame KOUAKOU
Make-up artist: Vivi JOUTZ
Video assistants: Eddy DAGHER & Liviane BOUEDY
Photo stylist assistant: Julie GALLAND
Music creative director: SPIKE MILLER
Video editing: Boris BEYNET
Production manager: Patrick Edoorad KITAN
Logistics coordinator: Melissa BROU
Production assistant: Carl Stéphane TOURE
Baouli women: Mireille KRE, Suzane Abou N’GUESSAN, Marie
KOFFI, Madeleine Aya AMANI, Zouzou Aya N’DA, Adrienne
Bossoma N’GUESSAN, Odette Aya YEMAN, Edith Ahou KOUAKOU
Models : Steeven KODJIA, Alex APPIA, Olivier ATTIA, Fabrice DIA,
Roland TRAORÉ, Charles BEUSEIZE"