Interview with Mike Sylla- Style Artist
Mike Sylla, is what is the best in the fusion of cultures, he is a fashion designer born in La Medina a popular neighborhood of Dakar, that transpires the deep culture of West Africa. Mike Sylla revisits the vintage leather / suede garment to reshuffle it with a second life, full of colors. He is an original, with a course no less atypical, which is reflected in its creation, which testifies its perfect alchemy between Senegal and the West. For more than 25 years, he has been in the fashion and arts world, he has dressed the biggest personalities in the world of showbusiness, and has been awarded to the four corners of the planet, especially in Miami in 2013 at Miami Fashion Week, where He received an award for the originality of his work, while in Africa among his own his talent will not be less recognized. On 22 March 2014 in Accra, Ghana, he will receive an international award, from the chairman of Dream Child Foundation, Oskar CJ Ibru, in recognition of his artistic talent, and the influence he has brought to African fashion and his impact within the African Diaspora worldwide. Mike Sylla is the guest of our fashion page this month in the lines that follow he tells us more about his person and his art.
Hello Mike, Sylla, Flashmag and its readership, are happy to have you as guest star of the fashion page for May 2017. We shall get to the heart of the matter, without losing ourselves in laconic introductions.So, when you arrived in Paris in the '80s, did you have a definite plan, to make your way into the arts?
Originally from Senegal, I came to Paris for studies and through meetings, I became a designer. Dedicated Citizen, I remember La Medina, a district of artists of Dakar where I grew up. I like and I need as a creative being this energy. Being a son of goldsmith and alchemist, all my creation comes out of my philosophy, my culture. I naturally had the opportunity to bathe in an environment that was both open-minded, creative, and unifying. How, did you finally land in style? Figure of the cultural activism of the late 80s, I came to fashion in an original and interesting way through painting and living Art. . Music inspired me a lot. My first concept was an assembly of fabrics and refurbished skins, in a spirit of recycling vintage suede and leather to give a second life to the materials.
In 1992, you launch your label Baïfall Dream. What inspired you this name? And what is the philosophy behind this concept?
I sign my creations Baïfall Dream, the dream of colors, and I am federating a group of artists Baïfall Dream & The Human Tribe, around my brand realized in workshop. I brought together fashion, painting and music. Exchange between artists, and a philosophy Which symbolizes dialogue, and the diversity of cultures. We notice that the background of Baïfall Dream is a kind of patchwork on materials like leather or suede. With this style what message do you want to pass? I work the noble materials, as the way of assembling the mythical fabric of the patchwork. I like the vibration of the skin, it is a way to find my Africa, to bring it closer to other origins and cultures. My collection is aimed at stylish and modern women, looking for a vintage ethnic spirit, a unique and exclusive style, that merges genres and tackles colors and noble materials in a subtle way. I thus demonstrate through my journey that Art is multiple and moving.
When you are given the label of stylist, you laugh, arguing, I quote: "Who says fashion, says outdated. I did not go where they were waiting for me. I do not make rags but art pieces.” What does this imply that your works are not meant to be worn, but merely contemplated, or that when one decides to wear them, one adheres to a certain idea of Art which 'Has no price?
My fashion is an innovative style, that creates trends, a genuine work of confidential and personalized Art. I have initiated a special atmosphere to my movable Art works, a prolific and living Street-Afro-Pop-Art essence. A philosophy that symbolizes the diversity of world cultures. Many personalities appropriate my creations and are faithful to my Art. Baïfall Dream is the fashionable wearing that carries the World Culture Couture, of worn Art.
You soon understood, that you had to give your business a friendly setting by opening a tea room that helps to create a social dialogue outside the commercial aspect, do you think this helped a better exchange Between the African diaspora in France as well as with the nationals of your host country?
I am generous in approaching my creation, as with regards to Senegal, Africa in general and its diaspora. The opening of the Salon de Thé Gallery La Theranga, a place where cultures are brewing, allows young artists to participate in the ephemeral scene, and the exhibition of Art and culture. An initiative to promote the richness, and diversity of cultures, a genuine dialogue of cultures.
You are also a musician specializing in Slam and the "koralyre", a traditional instrument that is a mixture of guitar, kora, zither and lyre. How does music inspire your work as a stylist or what role does it play?
I play the koralyre, a musical instrument that I created and designed with Philippe Dubreuil, a French luthier based in London. Actually I have several strings to my bow, my musical instruments are unique, and my sounds in the heart of poetry. The musical path is symbolic, because my instrument gives live tones to my parades and my shows.
I have directed Slam poetry workshops, and I make sure that all these young artists, can have music that accompanies them. I have realized the concepts of shows, a trilogy like the Slam opera, the Slamophonie and the Slamoperette that have marked the Slam movement in the world.
It is been, 25 years, that you are in fashion, you have dressed big stars of the showbiz world, and have received prestigious awards, in the 4 corners of the globe. According to you, is the Afro descent and African fashion in particular is going in the right direction? If not, what needs to be done to make it better?
It is necessary to valorize Art, and creativity, to allow Afro-Caribbean stylists and fashion houses to present the latest fashion trends in the international fashion market. There are exceptional talents in Africa, the Caribbean and its diaspora, and many initiatives have yet to be taken. We can notice their presence on many Fashion Weeks worldwide. If we find more and more talented stylists, the consumption of African fashion by afro designers remains timid, in your opinion why? There is a real change that occurs, the industrialization of African fashion becomes dynamic, and this desire for commercialization is becoming established among the creators. This state of mind will be accentuated. The African textile exports is doing well, one can admire it on podiums and trade shows.
In Africa, tailors and their clients are real stylists who create models according to the requirements of their customers or according to their style. In your opinion for a better consumption of African fashion, Is It necessary to continue to support the local couturiers, who remain very flexible, or create mass production units, for African ready-to-wear?
It seems to me necessary to encourage our rulers and investors to open up, to the fashion and creative market, it is a promising future. Despite your internationalism, with the world culture couture concept, you are also a strong supporter of the Afro Concept. You created the Afro Free Market Paris, Afro Expo Paris and Afro Fashion Week Paris why? Was it to give a platform of expression to African and Caribbean peoples, who do not always fit easily into the western showbiz system? Or it was a self-imposed reality? I have taken initiatives, to promote the richness and diversity of these cultures, by creating different concepts to once again share our culture and foster the talents of Africa.
Regarding these initiatives, If you were taxed with communitarianism what would you say?
I’m not into community, I'm a business leader and a multidisciplinary artist who rally the Arts by working in a spirit of unity. I collaborate with artists of all nationalities, this allows us to enrich mutually artistically.
The last time you presented one of your collection, was in March 2016 when can we hope for a new collection Of Mike Sylla, on the podium?
There have been many parades since! I regularly work on new pieces, and I respond to orders. This year I have produced more dresses, some of which were recently presented in Dakar and Addis Ababa on the African Mosaic event.
Before closing this interview, do you have a special word for the public?
May, my fashion inspires you to wear it, may my Art carries you ... like Baïfall Dream that you wear and which carries you.
Mike Sylla Flashmag and its readership, thank you for this cordial and open talk.