It felt so good to be back home. The smell, the heat, the view... Everything around me brought me comfort. It is sunny, the birds are noisy, the beach front, the juicy and coloured fruits, the life is vibrant. My dad, my sister Audrey, her husband and my nephew were here. I was so happy ! New place, new inspiration. I had the immediate desire to create a new collection here in Gabon. I could open my business, create my own atelier, be proud to develop some collections entirely made in Gabon. My dreams were high and it became my goal.
I started working as an editing manager for a lifestyle magazine called Tendances Info magazine. I really liked this job, the team was made up entirely of women, except for the director. It was a free magazine, distributed almost everywhere in Libreville. It shared the news, the events to come, the past ones, etc. I enjoyed this creative experience. I met a lot of people through it and it helped me to focus on my fashion brand on the side.
African fashion weeks
I had the chance to be invited to participate to the Miss Gabon competition to present my Moika collection, along with other designers. It was the occasion for me to say I was back. It was a great experience. There I met Adama Paris, the designer and founder of the Dakar Fashion Week, the Black Fashion Week and Fashion Africa, the first African fashion TV channel. She became interested in my collection, and a few weeks later she reached out to ask me to be featured in her fashion spot on the French tv Canal +, on the talk show Plus D’Afrique which was about african news. I immediately accepted. She also offered me to participate in the DKF, which I did, and which brought me an amazing vision of what African fashion was. Abroad they didn’t really talk about what was going on in fashion on the continent. I have met incredible /super /talented fashion designers, with such a good spirit, very friendly and empowering each other. I felt so privileged to be among them and to live what felt like a historic moment where Africa was on the rise. It was also the beginning for Otinguema. I was officially an African fashion brand. After that, I had few interviews in magazines, I got invited to different fashion weeks and people started to know me.
An atelier in Libreville
Then arrived the time for me to open my atelier in Libreville. I was still working at the magazine and I was still making collections for mondefile. One of the collections was entirely made in Gabon: some accessories, bags and purses, made in lamb leather with raphia.
I also began to make tailored clothes. In Africa people are still used to make their clothes on order. There are tailors in almost every street. Everybody has a tailor to go to, to make a dress, a suit, a skirt. This custom is continued through the wedding tradition where each family has its own wax fabric, and tailors are employed to make the garments. Now that the press was starting to talk about me, people were contacting me to have their custom made Otinguema piece. To clarify a bit, Gabon is a small country of 1.5 M people - so everybody kind of know each other and word-of-mouth spreads very fast. In this particular case, the rumours were good for me.
My first collection made in Gabon is named Terranga in tribute of the Senegalese welcoming land and people who helped me start to grow my dream. Their support and encouragement had really comforted me, and motivated me to continue. I had never worked with African wax or realised the importance of the fabric back in Africa. The wax has always been part of my environment but now it became “fashion”. I have always been interested in textiles and prints, so I took it as a challenge. I had to do something with this “pagne” as we called in francophone countries. I therefore mixed the fabrics, the prints, playing with graphic designs. Later on, I was invited to participate to the Nzassa Festival in Abidjan - Ivory Coast.
I was living the African fashion Dream.