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Amah Ayivi is an entrepreneur, part of the people who end becoming mixed up with their project. His project is called Marché Noir. It was initially a second-hand clothes boutique in the well-known Comptoir Général, and the brand evolved into a place in its own right just near to Carreau du Temple. A perfect place for the dandy, who can let his imagination run wild. This autodidact can do a lot. Helped by the Walt Agency, Amah is different thanks to an inspired scenography and original looks. It is his hallmark. He is an inveterate bargain-hunter, and he goes to Africa, his birth land, several times a year to find treasures he could add to his more “western” collection, who keeps growing day after day. His goal is simple: Bring out the best and what’s typically African. Exit the wax print pattern. The continent has other things to highlight. Amah knows where he is going. Collaborations are being thought and Marché Noir is destined to change fast, to become a more specialised shop. Fashion, like decoration, is a game. He knows it and takes great delight in doing it every day. Let’s meet, both in his apartment and in Marché Noir, this agitator who knows how to stand out and promises beautiful surprises for the years to come.
Amah, who are you? What has your career been?
I was born in Togo, and I arrived to France with my uncle in 1983. I studied marketing, and then became a casting director for 9 years, before working at the Comptoir Général.
How did you come to work there?
It occurred by chance. I started working there only a few weeks after the public opening. Actually, I had come to see a friend who worked there. He told me the Comptoir was not serving brunch. So I asked him to introduce me to the boss so I could suggest him a concept, which he did. This is how I met Aurélien Laffon. I suggested him the “Afro Brunch” and he said “OK, let’s go”. That’s how I started at the Comptoir.
Why did you become independent?
I didn’t distance myself, it’s more the opposite. We developed and the place of the vintage has just changed.
How the idea of Marché Noir came to you several years ago?
After 6 months of brunch. It was during a talk with Aurélien that we decided to launch a thrift shop on the mezzanine of the Comptoir. This shop was not called Marché Noir in the first place. I set everything up from A to Z. I was first going to pick the goods in the warehouse of a friend in Marseille. But it was before setting up the sourcing in Africa.
Where do you to find the clothes and accessories you sell in Marché Noir?
95% of the clothes and accessories in Marché Noir come from Togo. The rest comes from my other trips to different countries. The goods we find in Togo coms from Europe. It comes from the donations made to the Red Cross, to Emmaüs and to the Secours Populaire. All these entities sell part of these donations to Africa and Asia since they need money to finance their actions. You find the same in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and other countries in East Africa.
Africa and South America are continents which tremendously speak to me thanks to the numerous tribes and cultures there.
What is your feeling about the passion around African crafts?
This enthusiasm for Africa, more than only for its crafts, pleases me but it is not new. In Europe and elsewhere, Africa has always inspired people, but nobody said it or the ones who did were very discrete. Today, for a lot of people, Africa is “cool” so they can say they get inspiration from it. But I say Africa is not just cool. It has always been inspiring, rich, energetic and creative. It is also thanks to the young African generation that the image of the continent is changing for people. This generation has no complexes and doesn’t accept the negative image Africa has sometimes. They know the continent is rich, creative and they don’t hesitate to leave Europe to come and live in Africa.
What are your references in terms of style?
My biggest reference in terms of style is the army, because I think it’s the greatest fashion designer. The cuts of these clothes, their fabrics and their colours inspire me. Nothing is a coincidence in these clothes. The smallest detail is important, both practical and stylish. I like a lot the work clothes, and more specifically the ones produced in France. Finally, the traditional outfits of the different countries evokes a lot of things for me, especially thanks to their stories and colours.
Do you spend as much time thinking your interior than thinking your style?
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking my style. However, I love spending time bargain-hunting and finding beautiful pieces which are almost unique. For me, getting dressed is a game. I love to mix completely different things to make them live. I sincerely think our style reflects in general our personality and character. For me, the look of a person comes from the inner. It is a sort of poem or message we reveal by dressing up. I make the difference between style and fashion. For me, the first looks like us and the second one often misrepresents us. My interior is what I am and it evolves with me in accordance with my desires and my maturity.
What are your future plans and desires?
Actually I have a lot of projects going on: the opening of the basement of Marché Noir, early 2017; the setting up of a style office – still in the Marché Noir – that will really match my vision of style. Then, in a more “stylistic” point of view, the launch of a capsule line of cloaks/ponchos available at the end of November, and the preparation of a raffia shoes collection for the summer 2017.
Credits: Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily