Reap what you sew

The designer who's giving the young people of Ivory Coast the needle

Text by Rupert Bickersteth

Fashion today is a whole lot more attractive when it possesses ethical integrity. Designer Laurence Chauvind Buthaud plans to use proceeds from the launch of new label Laurenceairline to give young people in the Ivory Coast the chance to learn sewing and knitting skills, pursuing her dream of bringing hope to the country. Laurence grew up between Switzerland, southern France and the Ivory Coast, and it's in the latter's former capital where her vision is now taking shape. "Abidjan is a beautiful city raising incredibly creative people. Yet the recent situation there rapidly became a humanitarian disaster. The country is on the brink of collapse." She is referring to the state of civil war since 2010's controversial elections degenerated into violence at the start of this year. A tricky climate to launch an eccentric collection of men's boxer shorts and shirts, perhaps, but Laurence is undeterred. Based in Paris and with the marketing nous of creative director Zohaer Majhadi, her brand is chic, exuberant (note the colourful eye print patterns in the first collection) and not without humour. It is, in its own words, "for the modern tribal pop man." Zohaer and Laurence originally met in Paris 10 years ago, before their paths crossed again last year when their shared "human philosophy of life" led to the creation of the label. Since then, they've unveiled their spring/summer 2012 collection during the recent menswear shows in Paris and designed a shirt for Snoop Dogg. Yet the excitement of dressing the rich and famous hasn't overshadowed their original intention - to equip the people of Abidjan with the sartorial tools to generate a living in such unsteady times.

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