Surf’s Up, Cote D’Ivoire
Bantu’s Yodit Eklund is out to no less than change the perception of Africa worldwide. “I’m trying to export African beach culture,” the Ethiopian/German designer, who currently splits her time between Africa and Paris, explains. Popular perceptions of the continent tend to focus on the grisly aspects—strife, privation, the AIDS epidemic—and skim the better ones. But it is also a surfer’s paradise. Morocco alone has 11 different surfing magazines, and countries like South Africa are major surf destinations.
Since founding Bantu, her swim line, in 2008, Eklund has dedicated herself to spurring African production (the line is designed and produced entirely in Africa, primarily Ethiopia, Cameroon, and South Africa, though she’s planning to open her own small factory in Cote d’Ivoire) and mixing the continent’s traditional materials, like wax cloth, with modern shapes and updated prints. For her Resort collection, she played with Malian tie-dye; for Spring, a deep-sea theme reigns, shot on a recent visit to Cote d’Ivoire for a lookbook that could easily pass for a travel magazine spread. For the new range, which will hit retailers like Barneys, Opening Ceremony, and Net-a-Porter as well as her own online shop, launching in February, Eklund is expanding her offerings, too: For the first time, Bantu will have bermuda shorts, short-sleeve shirts, and a beach-ready pair of coveralls. That’s not to say a full ready-to-wear launch is forthcoming. “I think the whole collection thing is overdone,” she says. “That’s not so African; Africa is what you need. There’s no dry cleaners.”