A multi-disciplinary artist of note, Adriano Visagie is a Namibian creative whose talent knows no bounds.
With titles that include being a multi-award-winning actor, media personality and master of ceremonies, this banker by day puts no limits to what he can achieve.
Of all his all-round abilities, my favourite thing about Adriano is his love for Namibian fashion and how he empowers local designers through his platforms. We recently met at a coffee shop to chat about this love for fashion, collaborating with fashion creatives and what it means to love local and live it!
When did you fall in love with fashion?
It started at KCR (Katutura Community Radio) while I was still in high school. I realised how much I loved community radio and how we used it to share the stories from our communities. When the station rebranded to Base FM, the shows got marketed with promos and a lot of imaging. I realised I needed to start looking a certain way as part of my brand. I then wondered, how do I fuse fashion with what I do?
What did that realisation lead to?
I started working with Ingo Shanyenge and Immanuel Garoeb for the House of Tsatago. I remember being intrigued by their work, and that was when the Namibian fashion scene was very low-key and not as big as it is today. Being a shy person, I wanted to use the way I dress to get out of my shell, and these two designers helped me to add a fashion flair to my brand.
How else do you incorporate fashion in your work?
As an actor, I obviously don’t have much of a say in my wardrobe, but last year when I did the play Brother, I had in my mind garments that were flowy and basically a “blank canvas”. I didn’t want what we wore to overpower the play, so we had a plain, cream and flowy piece of fabric draped over our bodies. I remember buying the fabric in ChinaTown and going to Mathew (Erastus) of MN Creations, telling him exactly how I wanted the garments to look. I wanted it flowy and easy to move in.
At the end of the day fashion needs to make you feel good. It needs to help you express how you feel.
You went on to have a full-on collaboration with MN Creations. How did that go?
Mathew had always made my blazers. I remember going to Burkina Faso for the first time, and he made the blazer I wore for the awards show which I attended and won. He made it from scratch in two days. From that day, we worked together more, and I eventually asked him if we could create a collaborative collection. That’s how the BOLD capsule collection came about.
The collection sold out fast, and I learned many lessons from that project.
What were some of those lessons?
If we want to mass produce, we need to look into the longevity of the fabric. We need to tap into the fact that free trade allows us as Africans to buy fabric from wherever we want to in the continent. We need to capitalise on it more. We also need to collaborate more. Mathew and I drew from each other’s strengths to bring the vision to life. That is the power of collaboration.
Any plans to create a second collaborative collection?
The problem is that mass production is a problem for us and Namibians don’t want to shop online. To be lucrative, we need to move away from creating single items. We need to have business models that work. For us, a limited-edition collection was exactly that. We did recreate a couple of items from the collection last year, and they also sold out. But as much as people love the items, how is this lucrative in the long term? So I will go back to the drawing board and see what is possible.
Lastly, how does one maintain a good-looking and valuable brand?
Consistency, consistency, consistency! Failing forward. Collaboration.
Adriano has built a beautiful community of creatives with whom he works to help him look good on and off camera. One of his greatest pleasures is finding promising talent to work with and he goes a step further by connecting them with his colleagues in showbiz.
As we wrap up our interview, he mentions that his little sister is a fashion design student due to graduate this year. I cannot help but wonder what kind of red-carpet magic the pair would create together should they collaborate in future. If Adriano’s success is anything to go by, the next generation of creatives from his family will surely make their mark with as much flair as he has.
Follow Adriano on Instagram and on Twitter
Rukee Kaakunga is a Windhoek-based communications specialist, blogger and freelance fashion writer. Contact her via email: email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @rukeeveni and Instagram