Adèle Dejak – Combining recycling and design
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I first heard of her from a friend who visited from Jamaica, she asked me to take her to the store of Adele Dejak, and I was thought, “Whom?” However after investigation we located her store in the upmarket area of Westlands, Kenya. It was instant love at first sight with her creations and this led to my curiosity to know more about this extremely creative artist.
From her beautiful jewelery & accessory designs, its clear to see that Adèle Dejak was not destined for the Law career she studied for. Her beautiful creations are a work of both art and passion–passion deeply rooted in Africa.
From being born in Nigeria, educated in England and then married and moving to Kenya,
Adèle’s career began when she created a necklace which she wore to a party and, voila…the magic started. Thanks to the positive response she got, she decided to take her artistic vision seriously.
She has now founded her brand, ADELE DEJAK, which she cites as “About fashion and making a statement” she sells her brand under Magikgrace Designs LTD which has given her a wide acceptance not only in Kenya but even across the borders.
I got a chance to talk to Adèle to learn more about her creations and what inspires it:
Jamati: Who is Adèle Dejak ?
Adèle Dejak is creative, bold, sweet as honey, yet tough as nails! Original and avant- garde, without being over the top. Willing to experiment and take risks, but calculated ones. Likes to stand out without looking out of place. Loyal, fun loving, eccentric, a bit of a control freak, demanding, generous, and a terrible perfectionist. Fashion Savvy and hard core fashionista!
Jamati: In which part of Nigeria did you grow in?
I grew up In the North of Nigeria: Kano, Katsina and Zaire until I was 8 years old.
Jamati: Into what kind of family were you born and what type of upbringing did you have?
A mixed blend of a very traditional and eccentric British father and a traditional and fun loving Nigerian mother. I have a sister and 2 brothers. We were left free but my mother was tough when we got too naughty! I thought my family was totally dysfunctional until I realised in my twenties that our family was 90% less dysfunctional than other families we knew! In a nutshell, a fun loving Anglo-Nigerian family: A good Nigerian soap opera! Nollywood at it’s best!
Jamati: What are some of the things you remember from your youth?
The amazing picturesque landscape in Nigeria, the freedom and simplicity of life. When we lived in Katsina and Zaire it was very safe and everyone was unbelievably kind. Our highlights of each week were going rock climbing with our father on the amazing rocky hills 30m walk from our house.
Jamati: Where did you learn your craft?
Watching Hausa artisans in Nigeria as a child. A Masaai beader and a Kamba jewellery maker came to my house when I started the business and patiently taught me be how to create and interpret the designs I had drawn for them. Lots of research on the internet. Investment in books.
Jamati: Why jewelry and accessories?
Because it makes an outfit complete. I don’t know any woman who leaves the house without a handbag , shoes, or maybe a pair of earrings! It enhances the look and personality of the individual wearing them.
Jamati: Born in Nigeria, why did you choose to settle in Kenya?
I followed my husband who was posted Kenya.
Jamati: Looking at your designs it’s obvious that the inspiration is deeply rooted in Africa, but having been raised in Europe–why Africa?
My roots are in Africa and therefore it was natural to get to work with the materials here in in Africa. It has always been my passion. When I was a young girl I would hang out in markets and I adored going back to boarding school in England after the holidays decked out in my African jewellery!
Jamati: How long have you been in business?
Jamati: You are now working under Magikgrace Arts & Designs, why is that?
Magik Grace is named after my late mother, Grace. If you look up the word ‘Grace’ in the dictionary you can see how many beautiful different things it actually means. Magik means something very special and wonderful. My brand name is Adèle Dejak.
Jamati: What has been the response to your designs?
Positive, amazing, fantastic, awesome. Touching.
Jamati: What are some of the challenges you have faced in setting up your business and what have been the highlights?
Making sure the production is perfect i.e. quality controls, finding the right suppliers and experienced artisans. Recognition of experienced artisans, and ensuring that the quality of the items are as close to perfection as possible since all of them are hand made.
Jamati: Would you say it is hard as an African woman to set up a business in Africa?
Yes it is hard for anyone to start a business anywhere.
Jamati: You have a workshop where you create your designs, how many people have you employed at your workshop?
I started with 2 people and at the moment I have over 30 people
Jamati: How has it been working with your team?
They are fantastic!! The best workers ever, in fact I consider them my friends and part of the family. I love them to bits. Honestly I wouldn’t be where I was without them. They have been great putting up with my very high standards and sometimes my freaking out when things get out of hand!
Jamati: Some of your jewelry is actually made from recycled and recyclable material, why did you take up that direction?
It just seemed a natural route. I fell in love with the Mama Mbogas (women in markets who sell vegetables in Kenya) that hawk their products in cement bags, which is where I got the idea. I believe in ethical designs and caring for our environment. We produce clutch bags and handbags from recycled rice sacks which clients love. Our aluminum and brass is made from recycled door handles car engines etc etc The response from clients is also amazing when they get these items from recycled materials.
Jamati: Where do you get your materials from?
Nigeria, Ghana, Dar-el-Salaam, markets in Nairobi, and from local artisans.
Jamati: You cite that your jewelry and accessories designs are for the modern woman who wants to stand out and make a statement. Describe the modern African woman.
She is sophisticated, learned, embraces technology, does not rely on men to gift her beautiful things (though she appreciates gifts when given!) is 100% independent, knows exactly what she wants and might be toying with the idea of reinventing her image. Is proud to be African and uses her position to improve in any way no matter how small the condition and lives of her fellow African sisters who are less fortunate.
Jamati: What would be your advice to other women who want to start their business but feel stuck?
To be patient. Start pole-pole (poh-leh poh-leh) (slowly) Rome wasn’t built in a day. Do not to freak out if doors get shut in your face. I started my business with $100 which goes to show you don’t require a lot of capital! Please make sure you have a good business plan and don’t forget to have at least 5 core values for your company. It is very hard work and you might have a few sleepless nights but remember; no pain no gain. Do all your research before you start spending money. There is always a better deal around the corner. Don’t let your emotions or impulse get in the way of rational sound business decisions. If you plan to employ anyone, ways get references and actually call people to find out about them.
Jamati: How would you rate the African market in terms of acceptance of your products?
It is very well received and future prospects look very promising.
Jamati: Do you plan to set shop in other African countries?
Yes. In Nigeria!
Jamati: What do you have in store for the future?
I am full of surprises! So watch this space.
Jamati: Where can people buy/access your collections?
At the workshop on Kiambu road, Village Market next to Sundries bookshop, Westgate 1st floor next to Orange shop and in Lamu on Main Street.
Jamati: What advice can you give to young upcoming African designers?
Passion for your job is a smart tool and remember that victory requires lots and lots of elbow crease. Start out small and then move forward. Reading, traveling, and observing nature are great sources of inspiration… remember you do not require a penny to have a great idea.