Maryse Oulai is an adventurous and innovative fashion professional. After specialising in the ‘Mecca of Fashion’ Milan (Academia Del Lusso), she is back to Africa (Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire). She believes Africa is the next Big Marketplace. We interviewed Maryse, an Ivorian born Fashion Designer and now based in Ghana on her view on the fashion world below.
BUKZONE: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your journey as a fashion entrepreneur?
Maryse: I am Maryse, an Ivorian national and Rysen’s Creative Director & Founder. Coming back home after 10 Years in Lombardia (Brescia/Milan) in Italy, I had a clear Idea of what the next chapter will be. So, I joined my husband in Ghana and started studying the market. I took up a job as a Shop and Creative Manager for Chez Julie Ghana; just to understand the environment and fashion ecosystem.
With no workshop, no machines, I took the challenge of taking the brief of the 2016 Woodin Valentine campaign. Proposing 10 sketches from which 8 were selected for this West African campaign, the rest is history. This journey had not been an easy one as it started without any loan, and external capital injections. Purely with my own savings and husband support. I quickly had to learn the sense of priority, sacrifice in order to recruit the best people that will fit my Italian working standards and making sure I keep my people engaged, motivated and building a network of customers.
4 years down the line, Rysen has transformed into a specialist brand capable of producing collections for Woodin, Vlisco, other brands in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire. But at the same time build a presence in the Ghanian market for exclusive wedding gowns, evening/gala gowns with exquisite finishing and premium reasonable brand.
BUKZONE: What is the inspiration behind Rysen Fashion and what do you intend to achieve?
Maryse: Milan is the world capital of fashion and after being trained in one of the Top Fashion Universities in Milan “Academia Del Luiso”. The goal with Rysen was simply to create a perfect blend of Italian craftsmanship and African refined culture. Modern fashion, with pride in culture and authenticity. Rysen aims to build a borderless African modern fashion multi brands (wedding gowns, ready to wear), competitive worldwide and empower young Africans to believe it is possible. To trust your passion and follow your dream and work hard to turn it to reality. And to be the most sought after Afroglobal & luxury fashion brand by 2025.
BUKZONE: How do you walk the line between being unique and having commercial appeal?
Maryse: Rysen as a unique brand considers the concept of ”unique” as meaningful:
Meaningful from the creative and uniqueness point of view, creativity needs to be useful and a reflection of the better version of you/ client.
Meaningful for the business, creativity that people would want to buy and wear, hence revenues for the business
Meaningful on the brand aspect, as your style and quality of your creation resonate with people / customers who associate with the Brand.
Our Unique Selling Proposition is ” We make magic with what you have ”
BUKZONE: How is your work received internationally and where do you look for creative inspiration?
Maryse: My work has received excellent international recognition, as we create and produce for a couple of brands across Africa and for private clients in Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Kenya , Morocco.
All we need is your international measurement standard and a picture of yourself and we do the magic. We’ve received invitations for fashion in South Africa, Milan and Vogue – Unfortunately we could not attend due to tight timelines and the Corona pandemic. But these are positive signs.
BUKZONE: What is your favourite part about being a designer?
Maryse: Thinking the initial concept, laying it down in drawing, engaging with the client at the moodboard stage. Also the discovery part, as fashion is a very dynamic environment with new trends and styles coming all the time. Staying current and up to date is key.
BUKZONE: How do you want women to feel when wearing your designs?
Maryse: The Rysen woman is a woman reaffirming her AfroGlobality – From Africa to the world in all authenticity, with refined and exquisite quality and finishing.
BUKZONE: Where do you see your brand in terms of markets and designs in the next 5 years?
Maryse: To be the most sought after Afroglobal & luxury fashion brand by 2025. Distributing and selling in East , Southern Africa, the Caribbean & Europe.
BUKZONE: There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with the greatest collection season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?
Maryse: A brand needs to stand out and have clear recognizable elements and positioning. My advice will be to define your positioning, your style , who is your perfect customer and remain consistent.
BUKZONE: How do you feel as an African Fashion Entrepreneur?
Maryse: I feel PROUD. I am so proud to be back home in Africa, as I am one of the people passionate about this continent. I strongly believe this is where everything is going to happen in the next decade.
And I am proud to be part of some of this new generation of fearless fashion designers. Who wants to write a new narrative for African Fashion and culture. We believe in creating a new Africa that the world will accept, respect and acknowledge for its originality.
BUKZONE: Finally, what would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
Maryse: 2021 – Post Pandemic year 1, has been a stiff hill to climb but we are getting to stability level and preparing in anticipation of 2022 and getting ready to be more creative, more competitive, more African.