Fashion designer Lamine Kouyaté has always drawn from his birthplace of Mali and all of Africa’s past to create designs for his label, Xuly Bët, that put him well ahead of the fashion pack.
I first met Lamine Badian Kouyaté around 1990, when I walked his Paris runway shows. Staged at La Sarmarataine, one of France’s oldest department stores, dating back to 1869, Xuly Bët (which means “Keep an open mind” in Wolof) sparked both shock and delight in the industry, sending reworked secondhand European clothes, mixed with sharp and sexy nightlife-ready styles in African-and-Dutch wax prints, down the runway like explosive cultural cocktails.
Xuly Bët brought Kouyaté’s show to New York last week, and his signature pieces are fresher than ever. Afro chic is once again at the forefront of fashion, and repurposing clothes is top of mind for environmentally conscious consumers now seeking to make style the biggest footprint they impress upon our planet.
Xuly Bët is produced by hand in Paris in the designer’s headquarters, called the “Funkin’ Fashion Factory.” At the moment, Kouyaté is contemplating moving his operations to New York City, where he’s installed for the next month while he identifies a new business partner while also working on special projects with Carmen de Lavallade and the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Kouyaté tells The Glow Up that the Xuly Bët Fall 2018 collection was inspired by the question, how we can face our future?
“Issues like the environment, bullying on a global scale between people and nations, sometimes I feel like we are firemen who are trying to put out the fire with fire,” he says.
As he continues on the subject of the state of the world, a smile surfaces through the sorrow in his voice: “Africa is part is the solution. Using the prints that bring so much color and joy are a symbol of the hope and power we bring to the world. No matter what disaster happens to us—like slavery—Africans come out of it with love.”