In a time when cultural appropriation is hot on the lips of every reviewer and journalist, it’s beyond refreshing when you see a brand not only pay homage to the culture but directly work alongside, and give back to the culture – without twisting, changing or inflecting any Western influence on the designs.
Alama, the Paris-based jewellery brand founded by journalist and brand consultant Elisabeta Tudor (Editor-in-Chief of MODZIK), set designer artist Nini Gollong and their business partner Rabea Schaefers started their label with the premise of creating not just ‘another fashion label’ but as a kind of cultural project – a means to promote, celebrate and collaborate with global culture.
Their latest collection—a collaboration with French fashion label Faith Connexion—saw the brand employ a group of 20 Masai women (supported by NGO Africa Amini Alama) to create a collection of jewellery with a difference. The pieces aren’t ‘inspired by’ the Masai or even given a contemporary twist of any kind – each piece is an entirely authentic piece of Masai culture.
In an interview with Vogue, brand manager Ekaely Palango (who oversees the Masai collective in Tanzania) said, “I am proud to be a Masai woman. This project can help many Masai women artisans, because they are able to make more money than they normally would and therefore, can use their salaries to pay student fees for schooling and give money back to their families. Also, since I got involved with Alama, I have had many more women artisans get in touch with me to ask to join the collective.”