• Cannon

Mimi Plange In Conversation with Irk Magazine and CANNON with Questions by TK & Cipriana Quann

Photography- @lindsayadler_photo

Styling @thecannonmediagroup @theonly.agency

Red Images-Hair @linhhair

Makeup @joannegair

Model @loeil.de.la.mer @officialmodelsny

Gown @mimiplange


Hand embellished cape gown with

Swarovski crystal trim

Cannon chatted with Mimi Plange with additional questions by TK Wonder and Cipriana Quann to discuss fashion, life, and more.

TK: One of your quotes from a NY Times interview touched upon misconceptions that some have regarding African fashion. You said, “I want to prove to people that African fashion can't be pigeonholed. I can compete globally.” Working in the fashion industry, I’ve come across narrow-minded assumptions and stereotypes of what is expected of me as a Black creative. At times, do you feel what is expected of you as a designer is narrow-minded based on your African roots and skin color? If so, what is the greatest misconception/ stereotype you’ve come across and how do you combat it?

Mimi Plange by @lilliehart

Mimi: My observation of the fashion industry is the constant focus on black designers’ skin instead of craftsmanship. I think the focus should be on fashion design, theory, fabric, etc., and a thorough analysis of what goes on behind the actual designs and not just “What is it like to be a black designer in the fashion industry?” Emphasis on race and not spending much time on the actual work and its inspiration places the designs in a backseat and does not support the growth of the business.

Fashion Designers cultivate their brands into businesses that differ in categories like children’s wear, contemporary, bridge, designer, and couture. These brands integrate into the broader conversation of fashion, and that should not be different for black-owned brands with diverse inspirations and backgrounds. We are all designers who aspire to have successful businesses. It’s more important for consumers to know what we offer, how amazing it is, and why they must have our products. Our experiences and rich history and black heritage are an important part of the conversation, but they should not be the leading focus when discussing the merits of who a fashion designer is. I will not give too much energy to that concept and limitation, instead, I will concentrate on my distinct ideas and work principles. I determine what I want consumers to learn about my brand and its value through the work that I put out. As designers, we can control the way we want our stories to be told.

TK: Congratulations on your collaboration with Lebron James! This partnership is so powerful and necessary. Lebron is at the helm and his work off the court has been inspiring and meritorious, which makes this partnership all the more special with you onboard and shining a spotlight on your incredible talent. However, the fashion industry does not open doors for similar partnerships as frequently as it does for our White counterparts. Why is a partnership like this important to you?

Mimi: Collaborating with the LeBron James brand on our first sneaker, the LeBron 18 Low x Mimi Plange, “Higher Learning” was an absolute honor. LeBron has been championing stories of strength, equality, and inspiration within our communities for years and it’s really dope to be a part of a movement about education and what it means to be great beyond what you do. This movement is transforming lives and we are providing our new and existing customers a product that conceivably will inspire them. We are so thankful and filled with gratitude, and we can’t thank LeBron and Nike Basketball enough for this empowering experience. We feel uplifted and bracing for the next steps. We are sharing our voice with a whole new audience that we can learn from and connect with.

TK: You have a degree in architecture. The essence of architecture and fashion design are strongly aligned with building something. When building a collection, do you merge what you’ve learned in both sectors, architecture, and fashion? Are some elements of architecture applicable to your designs?

Mimi: I think Architecture school made my approach to design a bit more sophisticated and thoughtful. In architecture, we were looking for beautiful solutions for the environment, but you had parameters. You had to create something inspirational with lots of limitations. You constantly had to consider the end-user, functionality, and when I look back on it now, it was an exercise in sustainability. I apply the same concept and reasoning in fashion. There are size limitations, price limitations, technical limitations, so you design with solutions in mind. You design with your brand DNA and try to address the consumer’s needs by adding value to their lifestyle.

Cipriana: You used an adaptation of the Italian embroidery technique called trapunto to interpret scarification, a traditional body adornment practiced in regions of West Africa where the skin is etched into decorative patterns. Why is it important to keep the traditions of your Ghanaian heritage in your collections and how does it inspire your designs?

Mimi: When we first started in 2009, we researched traditional types of African fashion from around the continent before colonization. Then we came upon a book by Christiana Oware Knudsen, “The Patterned Skin, Ethnic Scarification in developing Ghana,” and learned about what scarification was and why the practice of scarification existed. Scarification is the cutting of the skin to create permanent patterns and scar tissue to decorate the skin. They usually add more of these permanent markings on the body and face over one’s life. There were many reasons for scarification, identity being the main one. The designs on your body expressed your social status, puberty, marriage, and all rites of passage. Scarification was spiritual, medicinal, and sexual, and also served as protection. We want to celebrate these patterned bodies from all over Africa and share their stories. My mom also has scarification on her cheek. I had asked her about it growing up and she told me she got it when she was a little girl in her village. I never thought much about it then, but as an adult, I now pay attention to the markings on some of my family members and especially when I travel on the continent. Trapunto embroidery was the best technique to showcase the texture and replicate the raised surface of the skin.

Cipriana: Your incredible designs have been worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Vanessa Hudgens, Serena Williams, Rihanna, Paris Hilton, Michelle Trachtenberg, Viola Davis, Regina Davis, Gabrielle Union, Janelle Monae, and Awkwafina. You have been awarded International Emerging Designer of the Year at the Mercedes-Benz Africa Fashion Week and winner of Mayor Bloomberg’s Design Entrepreneurs Award in New York, while personally invited by Michelle Obama in 2016 to the White House for the Celebration of Design event with features in British Vogue, The New York Times, T Magazine, Vogue.com, Ebony Magazine, Vogue UK, Vogue India, WWD, Harpers Bazar, Marie Claire, Essence, Glamour Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Nylon Magazine. In the face of success, international acclaim and well-deserved notoriety can you share a difficult moment in your life and how you persevered?

Mimi: There have been many challenging moments over the years, but during COVID-19, I spent a good amount of time thinking about my brand and life. Everything was in limbo. I started reflecting on what was really significant and how to move forward. I got a little overwhelmed and needed to take a step back from everything and quiet the noise of society. Even though we hear so many predictions and judgments about our lives in the media, it doesn’t always mean that will be our experience. It doesn’t always mean that will be true for you. I decided my brand had a reason to exist and it would survive, no matter what came our way. When times are difficult, I believe that you have to experience what you feel at that moment, and then focus on something positive that may come out of it, and that’s how I work on keeping my outlook positive. I use my mindset, affirmations, and beliefs to help me persevere.

Cipriana: In your interview with the Clever podcast you stated you felt loved by your Mother’s every action but she described the arts as “someplace that was fun and you can do on the side but you probably won’t make money from it.” Despite your polar view of personal career paths, it is obvious you had a loving relationship with your Mother from your past sentiments. What advice would you give to others in pursuing their passions in the face of difference from loved ones? As well as the importance of a supportive environment?

Mimi: My mom constantly told me I could do and be whatever I wanted to be, but maybe just don’t be a fashion designer. I probably share this experience with many people who have parents who grew up in Africa. Back then, my mom was of the mindset that you had to be a doctor or a lawyer, or something practical in order to be successful. She did not see fashion as a viable business. I would say that her concerns about a career in fashion design were valid. That’s really why I studied Architecture. I knew I was going to go to fashion school at some point, but I needed to choose a major. One day in high school, I recall reading a short bio on the great Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre, and I learned he had gotten his degree in Architecture before his career in fashion so I thought maybe that could also be a path for me. My mom was cool with Architecture.