“I’m a fashion designer. Growing up, I would design for my mom and my aunts, but I hesitated going to fashion school because I wanted to study something that was related to computers. I ended up going to school for computer animation, which is the best of both worlds—you get to study photography, illustration, and drawing, all of which worked to my advantage for designing. I started my fashion label in 2009 in New York, and in 2012 I decided to relocate to Ivory Coast, where my parents are from. I wanted to have a purpose behind the clothing line, creating jobs there and empowering women by manufacturing all the clothes on the label in a small, local workshop.
The work that I do is inspired by a lot of traditional African photography, but it’s also inspired by contemporary photography. I actually just started doing this photo series on Instagram called #AlienEdits, after the Michael Brown incident. I felt very depressed and like I needed something positive to take my pride back, so I started doing these selfies. I thought, maybe you could give meaning to a selfie by bringing a social and cultural awareness into it. I started using props that communicate African traditions, like birds or fabrics. They're about feeling alienated and the struggle to overcome stereotypes, and also about how being an alien can be a good thing.
My brand is definitely a medley of cultures. It really goes through my moods, and the same is true for beauty. I don’t like to settle for one thing—I can look super goth today and then super traditional the next. Mostly, I like to stay very natural when it comes to makeup and just enhance some of my features, like my mouth with darker lipstick, or my eyebrows. I like to use a brown eyeliner on them—I just draw along with little strokes and then brush to blur it. I also got my lash extensions done earlier today for the first time at Bling Lash. They put in the extensions, but then you don’t have to do anything else, and it takes about 45 minutes. Right now I think my color is Natural 120 with mink. Before that I used synthetic lashes and then I would do it myself, but it’s not really recommended, so I stopped doing that. On my lips, I use a MAC Lip Pencil—my favorite to use is a really dark purple like Heroine or Cyberworld. It’s hard for me to get a lot of colors because I have dark skin, so it’s a lot of black, deep purple, deep reds.
It’s also really tough [finding my shade of foundation]—right now I use whatever matches my skin and use a lighter shade—like two or three shades lighter—around the eyes to brighten my face. I use Black Opal True Color Stick Foundation from CVS, and it’s very cost-effective. As far as skincare, I grow aloe vera plants in my backyard and extract the gel out of it and just do a mask once a week. I’ll do it overnight and wash it in the morning. It’s not too greasy, you don’t feel it on your skin, and it just refreshes everything when you wake up in the morning. I also like tea tree oil lotion…that’s good for breakouts and stuff.
I wash my hair once a week. I use Pantene, but I also like Garnier Fructis. I use Queen Helene Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Cream as a conditioner—it’s in a little tub and it’s kind of paste-y and you use it for 15 minutes and then rinse it out. I blow dry it and then put aloe on the roots and shea butter in the ends. My hairstylist friend actually just cut my hair yesterday, in her house…it’s kind of inspired by Adesuwa [Aighewi] who has a cut like this right now, really blunt and in-shape on the sides.
Going between New York and Ivory Coast, you have a lot of pros and cons. In New York, I feel like I’m moving towards something—there’s definitely this urgency that’s focused toward the future. In Ivory Coast, it’s more like I’m enjoying the now, and going to the beach, and everything is OK. You are definitely closer to nature and people live differently than they do here, but then here you feel like anything is possible. I can’t be there for too long because I’ll be like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ Then I’ll come here and be like, ‘This is too much, I have to go back!’ I feel like you need both.”
—as told to ITG
Loza Maléombho photographed by Tom Newton in New York on December 10, 2015.
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