PARIS—On Rue Caulaincourt, a beautiful street at the foot of Montmartre lined with majestic Haussmanian buildings, an elegant boutique offers a stimulating and refreshing vision of a mixture of African and Parisian fashion at its best. Julienne Biyah, a Franco-Cameroonian designer displays a selection from 23 African designers, as well as her own creations. All are made with beautiful awax fabric, which are designed and produced in France.
With a passion for fashion, Biyah arrived in France at age 7. She obtained a Fashion Marketing Master’s Degree in Paris, and started her career as a product manager and buyer for Tally Weilj. She worked there for 10 years and discovered all the links in the fashion chain: design, store sales, purchases, and production. She then felt confident enough to accomplish her childhood dream of starting her own brand. At the beginning of 2013, she launched OWL PARIS.
Why did you want to launch your own brand, as well as your own shop?
“I had in mind a brand close to me. That is to say, resolutely trendy, dynamic, modern and subtly influenced by Africa. Concerning my shop, I wanted to create a unique place where my products could easily express themselves.”
How do you select the other brands presented in your shop along with the OWL clothes?
“Right now, we propose 23 different creators in plus of OWL PARIS. The concept of the selection is pretty simple. It’s the potential of the product that makes the difference, and its capacity to answer a need, to fit a trend. It’s my product manager side who speaks here, but I also make sure that our ‘L’Afrique c’est chic concept-baseline,’ that reflects the expertise and the elegance of our house, is respected. And then, of course, there is the feeling!”
You make your clothes in Paris. Was it important for you to control the creation process? “For me, this is the basis. The ‘made in France’ label is a guarantee of quality, and it’s one of the best in the world. I also like to feel close to my products, to see its birth through my sketch, then to develop it until the end customer. In the medium term, I would also like to launch Made in Africa collections.
For the wax fabric, I supplied from Vlisco, the first wax manufacturer in the world located in the Netherlands, but I also work with suppliers in Cameroon and Ivory Coast. I want to know the origin of the fabric in order to guarantee a traceability of the final product.”
What inspires you?
“As a matter of fact, everything inspires me- the street, music, current events, the magazines, my friends… I immerse myself in all this ‘material’ that will communicate to me certain feelings or energy that I will transcribe through my collection.
I also have several favorite designers that also inspire me. Like the Roman designer Stella Jean that know how to make « was » talk in a very sober and refined way. I also like very much Jean-Paul Gaultier, who was one of the first couturier to work with wax, and his eccentricity is very inspiring. And I love Celine, who proves that minimalism is the new chic. OWL PARIS is, in part, the product of all this great source of inventiveness.”
BIYAS PARIS TIPS:
DRINKS: “I like to go to La Fourmi (74, rue des Martyrs, 75 018), a bar and a restaurant located in between Pigalle and the Abesses neighborhood, or to La Perle (78, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003) in the Marais.
DANCING: Sometime, I like to go wiggle with my friends at La Favela Chic (18, rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75 011).
INSPIRATION: I like to escape in the Marais, a neighborhood that brews a lot of different cultures and personalities. There are always treasures to be found there- beautiful graffiti, art galleries, shops. It’s one of the most creative Parisian places.