"You can throw everything on the floor, please make yourself at home," says Abbé Tossa to a client in a small showroom at Vila Mariana, in São Paulo, among samples and more samples of brightly-colored textiles from Africa.
The client, Andreia Soares, 36, traveled 62 miles from Sorocaba, upstate São Paulo, to buy gifts from Tossa, after being delighted with her first purchase, a cut of cloth to make a dress for a wedding. "I chose the fabric over the Internet, and the final dress gained so many compliments. I didn't really wear African clothes before, but now I want to dress like that all the time. It's a gorgeous style," she said.
Born in Benin, Abbé, 28, came to Brazil in 2012 to study. He is finishing a degree in Biology, but a year ago, he started to design clothes with the brightly colored printed fabrics he always wore in his country. "I was raised wearing this kind of style. My mother has worked in fashion for 40 years, I feel at home in this business," says Abbé, who named his brand after his mother: Kuavi.
He is a self-taught designer. Two dressmakers from Burkina Faso, African immigrants like Abbé, make the pieces: shirts, pants, dresses, turbans and jackets.
Most of his clients are Brazilians, and the sales happen over the web and social media. He receives orders from clients all over the country. "I just got a photo from a client in Rondônia," he says, mentioning a remote state in northern Brazil.
He is also becoming a darling for Afro-Brazilian celebrities like actors Adriana Lessa, Ailton Graça and Erico Brás, as well as actor and musician Seu Jorge.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV