Updated: Apr 29
It's safe to say that African fashion, once reduced to dashikis and only reserved for black history occasions in the western world, is suddenly sweeping the fashion industry on all fronts. Though some designers have been able to gain visibility through television and corporate partnerships, some are making quiet, but mighty waves designing for everyday women and men who want to stand out boldly. Here is an Africa Expo interview that shares a bit about Marlene Watson, a designer for the rest of us.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and what inspired you to become a fashion designer?
My name is Marlene Watson. I’m from Liberia, West Africa. I’m a designer and seamstress. I’m a laid-back individual that likes to spend time designing and teaching. I started designing three years ago and it all began with my love of the beautiful African prints.
(Marlene Watson, designer of _xoxo_mar rocks a self-made African print mini skirt.)
Describe your approach to design? Do you take risks or do you have a lane that you stay in?
I will say that the approach to my designs are not done in comfort zones. I’ve learned to take risks and always bring out new ideas to my clients. As a designer, my aim is to find the perfect style that fits my client's body. For example, I have had a client come to my studio and asked for designs that they found on the internet. Instead of copying the exact style that she found, we came up with a design together that accentuates her body type. I consider myself a designer because I work along with my clients to make their dream outfit possible.
What message do you want to share with the world about Africa through your designs?
The important message that I share with the world about Africa through my designs is encouraging my clients to embrace how authentic the African fabrics are. Every client needs to feel special when they put on new clothes. As an African designer, I emphasize to my clients that the bright, bold, and beautiful African prints should not scare them into thinking that they cannot style it up.
My clients are encouraged to wear whatever prints they want and to not feel ashamed to be colorful. Moreover, life is full of ups and downs, why not allow your outfit shine bright out there. It might seem like a risk to wear vibrant colors but the colors and patterns of fabric tell a beautiful story about a person.
What's on the Horizon for the _xoxo_mar brand for 2020?
The year started off really good for me. I was nominated as a best fashion designer at the Liberian Entertainment Awards coming up March 2020. I am really excited to be in this category with a lot of great talents. In 2020, I have so many great things coming up for the _xoxo_mar brand. I’ve been working on some new designs for my collection coming up this summer. I can’t wait to share with the public. . I finally ventured into something that is dear to my heart ; I started sy_jaa, a fashion blog along with my friend.
Sy_jaa, was launched earlier this year. There,we share fashion from our unique perspectives. Our blog is about finding your perfect style and rocking it with no regrets. The main goal of this blog is for everyone to relate to the things we will be wearing. From everyday outfits to work, business, weddings, and birthdays. We will always exhibit new styles and if you follow us, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
( Marlene and fashion blog partner in looks they designed from their @sy_jaa fashion blog)
Follow the brand @_xoxo_mar
Follow the fashion blog @ sy_jaa
Vote for Marlene as best fashion designer for the Liberian Entertainment Awards here .
Check out some more _xoxo_mar designs under the archives tab from our 2019 Africa Expo fashion show.