Zak Koné: “My time at IFA Paris helped unveil everything I was feeling in terms of creation”

He has his own style and is the pride of Ivory Coast. With the help of his talent, Zak Koné finds success in everything he does. He is the creator of an up-and-coming glamour and chic feminine fashion, whose brand PELEBE allowed Andrea Kakou (Miss Ivory Coast 2015) to reach the Top 10 of Miss World contest for designers.

Michel Temman: Could you first introduce yourself and tell us more about your life today as well as your career?

Zak Koné: I am an almost 30 year old self-taught stylist from Ivory Coast and since I came to IFA Paris in Paris, I am now a couturier. Since 2013 with my little team, we launched the Zakstyle workshops in order to produce tailor-made creations and collections, PELEBE cocktail dresses and evening dresses. Beforehand, I learnt a lot from my mentor, an Ivorian designer, Aya Konan, whom I consider today as my mother figure.Collection 2018 « Chocolate » by Zak Koné

M.T.: You are from Abidjan in Ivory Coast. Can you tell us about Abidjan? Is it where you were born and raised?

Zak Koné: Us Ivorians, in a very general manner, consider Abidjan as an emerging city, very economically and culturally dynamic. Communities are more and more open-minded and open to the world. I was born in a city called Man, in another part of the country and only went to Abidjan in 2002 in order to pursue my education.

M.T.: How did you end up in fashion? When did that special click happen? Is it a hobby that goes back well in time?

Zak Koné: “How did I end up in fashion?” you say. That’s interesting because really, I never ended up in fashion…  I actually believe that I have always been in fashion - most probably, fashion has always been in me. I always knew what I wanted to do, since my childhood I was determined to evolve in this universe. Therefore, there was no click. An old hobby perhaps? I am not sure, but my first drawings date back to when I was 6 years old, according to my mother, but I don’t really recall.

Photo by Bilal Moussa for PELEBEM.T.: You pursued the Fashion Studio Short Course at IFA Paris. How valuable was this experience?

Zak Koné: Indeed I did, from March to May 2017, I attended the Fashion Studio Short Course at IFA Paris, a course teaching seam techniques and fashion in Paris. It has been a great revelation for me, a way to realise everything I was feeling in terms of creation. Today in my work, I feel everything that this education changed in my way of working in the workshop. It is like I now have all the answers to the questions that I had on my clothing concepts. But now, I want to enroll in IFA Paris’ MBA! The one I am aiming for is the "MBA Luxury Brand Management", in order to better master the codes of the luxury industry and to help me in my quest for quality and the positioning of my brand PELEBE, a luxury “made in Cote d’Ivoire”!

M.T.: You are the creator of the brand PELEBE. Does this name mean something in particular? What is the most recent actuality of the brand?

Zak Koné: PELEBE is a given name in the Senoufo ethnic group dialect, settled mainly settled in the Northern part of Ivory Coast, which is where I am from. It means “brothers fusion”, “brotherhood fusion”. This name symbolises the brotherhood, the bond, and the brotherly union. It is also the name I inherited from the father of my father. For the anecdote, after a big family dispute, my grandfather was beaten, undressed and disinherited by his older brothers. I was left alone without clothes, without anything. That Photo by Bilal Moussa for PELEBEday, a neighbour came to him and gave him an old French colonist coat. It was his only piece of clothing until his death. Therefore it is not really a coincidence that me, the son of his first son, who inherited his name, Pelebe, is creating clothes. I find it is spiritual, isn’t it? Like evidence. I told myself that it would be the positive revenge on life. As if in a way, I brought my grandfather back to life, as a clothing brand. As if in a way, he who was found naked, was now dressing the world! It is an homage to life.

M.T.: What are your main inspirations?

Zak Koné: For me everything is an inspiration.. an image, a colour, a person, a story … I always let my senses run wild in my creation process.

M.T.: What are your objectives with PELEBE? What are you doing today?

Collection 2018 « Chocolate » by Zak KonéZak Koné: Today, PELEBE is a tailor-made line, whose only motto is: style, chic and quality. New ready-to-wear collections will be created soon  hopefully. With PELEBE, my team and I wish to prove that today in Africa and mainly in Ivory Coast, a real creative industry is under way – forgetting in the process all its' folklore codes and primary traditions that are attached to it. Today Africa is young, dynamic and aware, its our leitmotif. One of our latest ready-to-wear collections is named “chocolate”. It is the first really accomplished collection from PELEBE. I am happy with my Lebanese photographer Bilal Moussa, an African at heart, who was able to capture this collection. The shooting took place in a media Casablanca, Morocco.

M.T.: Is there a dream that you wish to accomplish as an independent designer?

Zak Koné: A dream! Yes: I would like to impose a new fashion style, the Africanism, the made in Africa, an African style, on behalf of the African fashion industry… you will note that it is more about ambition than dreams!

M.T.: We know that the African fashion scene is very dynamic and you are one of its emblematic designer.s What is the situation of fashion industry in Ivory Coast today?

Zak Koné: In Ivory Coast, talking about “African fashion” is a bit too reductive to me. We designers, should work for a “fashion industry in Africa”. These are to me, two very different things. Fashion is universal and shouldn’t be linked to any specific area or region. Instead of “African fashion”, I would rather talk about fashion only. On the other hand, we need to impose the “African style”. Our codes, our culture and our history are our strengths and explain the enthusiasm of our continent!

To learn more about the short course pursued by Zak, please visit: Short Course Fashion Studio