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VENTURES AFRICA – On Ventures Travel today, we feature Adiat Disu is the President of Adiree , a communications and brand strategy firm focused on global sustainable & mainstream brands within the realm of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries.
In 2009, Adiat Disu founded the Africa Fashion Week (AFW) New York | London | Paris | Milan | Berlin | Tokyo, triggering a world-wide trend of bringing African Fashion to fashion capitals. Currently the AFW New York attracts more than 1,500 industry insiders; with 70 percent of designers coming directly from Africa, thereby further fostering a relationship between the U.S. and Africa, according to The Africa-America Institute.
Ventures had a chat with this successful African woman and here’s what she had to say about travels round the continent.
Q: How often do you get away and what is your favourite African city? Can you recall few memories of your very best trip ever and would you do it all over again?
A: I travel a minimum of 2 months per year to the continent, and have no intentions of selecting a favorite, instead I’ve tried to completely immerse myself in the beauty that each country has to offer: the food, lifestyle, culture, and especially the people. I’ve fallen in love, over and over again.
There is something umbilicus between me and the continent; the result of a love affair between my experiences from countries such as Ethiopia and South Africa.
South Africa gave birth to humbling and fruitful opportunities. Adiree worked with women entrepreneurs, mentoring and providing South African women entrepreneur’s insight on doing business globally. I sat on a three day panel, with various powerful women from both the U.S. and South Africa (Nhlanhla Mtshali the Manager for Group Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Sponsorships at Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Ms. Bokang Motjane Miss South Africa 2010 and Ms. And Monhla W. Hlahla Board of Directors Chairperson for Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited) to name a few.
Being able to nurture the womb (women) of Africa, was truly a honor, an experience I will never forget.
The soil of South Africa gave me so much fruit. Visiting South Africa, I was humbled by the history of South Africa’s struggles. I went to the Mandela Museum and my heart throbbed at the unveiling of its historical struggles and mind crushing events that occurred. Much of the anti-apartheid movements were driven by the youth which gave me faith to move forward as the young entrepreneur I am today.
And how can I forget being in Soweto? Eating at a local restaurant, being surrounded by South African house beats, and the rhythm of the community excitement was delectable.
Q: Is it still fun for you to pack up a suitcase and head somewhere new? If yes, where would that be?
A: Packing includes every electronic device I have to stay connected and share my experience as a young female CEO who is doing business on the continent ( a story that needs to be told); a few fashionable pieces to ensure that I am prepared for the sun or rainy seasons, and an old fashioned journal/diary (yep) to write in. In the future, I hope to fill the pages of my diary with details from my next visit to Nigeria (home), Kenya or Tanzania next.
Q: What are your style choices during getaway seasons? Have you ever experienced any fashion disasters while travelling?
A: Of course fashion, deposited on the runway from Africa- the full value the world is beginning to appreciate. My style is always a mix between traditional African fabrics or motifs and “English” silhouettes. My staple pieces are usually 1950’s silhouettes or 1970s wear (wide legs and soft blouses).
My go-to designers are usually from British/ Zimbabwean designer Farai Simoyi or soft chic lounge pieces created from Shemma by Ethiopian designer Firkirte Addis.
I’m really blessed to have fashion brands that create pieces for me to wear, so I don’t have to rely on my own judgment (which when you’re on the go- can be a disaster). I am extremely proud to wear their pieces where ever I go.
Q: Do you know of any African destination that is overrated? Give us your own review of this country…
A: Quite the opposite experience actually. I have received extremely amazing hospitality, kindness and eagerness to make connections. For example in Ethiopia I experienced the beautiful early sunrise and the blowing of horns, which I later found out were related to a group that runs in the morning (sort of like a wake-up call for those looking to join). I even joined locals and international guests and went running in the morning (at that elevation, I lasted barely 2 miles…laughs).
And the food! One thing I immediately appreciated was the freshness of the meats. Also when I requested for strawberry kiwi, I was expecting a bottle filled with artificial juice. But I was surprised to see freshly squeezed juice with pieces of fruit floating in it. YUM!
Q: Take us through the process of choosing your accommodation and making your food choices abroad… Have you ever dealt with a culture clash?
A: Choosing accommodations and making food choices abroad is a collaborative effort. An effort driven by a family of fashion designers who we’ve we worked with on AND off the continent, local partners, and friends I meet on ground. Being African, born and raised on the continent, I’ve always felt at home in any African country. So far so good (smiles).
Q: What part of the continent would you like to revisit should Africa’s tourism industry improve?
A: It is true, there are parts of Africa that still require fundamental resources to improve, but I plan on enjoying Africa throughout its transformation. There is no place in the world (including Africa) with such abundance in youth who are energetic, creative and eager to use/create technology that will stay the same. Change is happening, and it is intoxicating to see. Traveling to countries that are not ‘tourism-friendly,’ with the right guidance and support has provided me with authentic exposure to happy people, yearning to explore what the world has to offer them.
The experience of traveling to each country on the continent is an elusive mixture of emotions (mystery and excitement).