Afro chic footwear

The unwavering trend in fashion is still the African wax print. Previously reserved for traditional African societies the Ankara print is now the most remarkable way to make a fashion forward statement. Mystique clothing has honed into this growing trend and introduced an Africa inspired twist on footwear.

Based in Ghana, Mystiqe clothing is owned by Kwabena D. Boateng, a trained physician who is ironically one of the most prominent shoe designers to hit the scene. Kwabena designs shoes with a definitive Afro flair. His rendition of Birkenstocks has been a runaway hit because it is the perfect fusion of Afro chic and comfortable footwear. In an interview with the designer, he explained that his work is inspired by his love for Africa.

“At Mystique, we incorporate wax prints and tie & dye cloth to create a range of products which include Afro Birks, Loafers, and flats. We keep our products vibrant and chic and still remain committed to a high standard of quality. Eventhough I am a doctor, I have been motivated by the uniqueness of our Ankara prints to create a business venture that shows the beauty of Africa. In my native Ghana, we have a wide array of designs so the avenue for being creative is limitless. I am always motivated to create something that is comfortable, affordable and aesthetically pleasing.”

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Losing You

With her latest hit Losing You, Solange makes a definitive statement: She is her own woman! Her sound is unique, her wardrobe is feisty and the video which was shot in Cape Town, South Africa, is 4 mins 21 secs of cinematic artistry. The video was directed by Melina Matsoukas and it is available on iTunes

Success in Africa


Bethlehem Alemu owns soleRebels, the fastest growing brand in Africa!  In 2004 fueled by a strong desire to create employment opportunities in her community, Alemu decided to put a refined twist on traditional Selate and Barabasso Ethiopian shoes which are made out of recycled car tires.

She assembled a group of skilled artisans in the underserved neighbourhood  and motivated them to craft stylish, eco-sensible shoes out of tires and indigenous materials. The result is soleRebels, a multimillion dollar shoe company which is projected to hit $15 million dollars in revenue by 2015.

During a recent visit to Addis Ababa, I met Bethlehem at the flagship shop of soleRebels, to discuss the challenges and rewards of being a successful business woman in Africa. In a neatly decorated room surrounded by  loafers, sneakers and multi-coloured flip-flops, Bethlehem talked about her vision for her company and how she juggles her family life with the demands of her career. Few entrepreneurs have inspired and motivated me like she did. Inspite of her enormous success, she remains grounded and gracious.  She demonstrates her committment to her brand by being present at the shop to serve her customers and receive direct feedback about her collection. As we concluded the interview, a couple from Belgium walked into the store. Bethlehem rose enthusiastically and greeted them by name. “My wife is obsessed with soleRebels,” the bespectacled man explained to me,  ”she is here to stock up before we return to Brussels.” This couple like many others in Ethiopia and around the world are drawn to the quality and comfort that soleRebels produces.

To meet the growing demand for her high quality shoes, Bethlehem has expanded her operations to employ 200 local artisans to export Ethiopia’s eco-sensible shoes to Europe and North America and Asia. With a simple dream to improve the conditions in her community, Bethlehem Alemu has created a respected brand which has garnered accolades at home and abroad.

Dikembe Mutombo

On the court Dikembe Mutombo was known for his domineering 7 ft 2″ stature and his shot-blocking prowess. For ten years he played for several NBA teams and he was named the Defensive Player of the Year four times. However Mutombo’s proudest accomplishment has been his commitment to improving the welfare of underprivileged communities in Africa.

In his native Congo, he has built the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Centre to provide healthcare to close to 3 million people. His 1999 campaign for the eradication of Polio in Kinshasa led to 8.2 million children being vaccinated. Without hesitation he extends his generosity to refugee camps in Somalia and at-risk- communities across the US.

At the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative, I sat down with Mutombo to discuss why it is important to give back.