Originally from Guyana, South America, Margaux Wong is a fashion and textile designer currently living and working in Burundi, East Africa since 2009. Mother of three, she is designing clothing, textiles and jewelry. On this Sunday August 2nd, she was lucky to be featured on Beyonce’s website catalogue of African brands. Margaux told Akeza.net how she feels about all of this but also took us back to the journey that got her there. Below is our full interview with her.
“I expect the holistic growth continue. I’ve seen my followers increase and also request for my catalogue and price list increase over night. I expect to have more orders due to the increase of traffic to my social media platforms and website. I expect more opportunities to tell my story and the stories of the people I work with”.
Akeza.net: You have been featured on Beyonce’s website catalogue of African brands. How do you feel?
Margaux Wong: It feels great to be recognized for the work I’ve been doing for the last twenty years. It’s always a blessing to see the fruit of your faith, labor and commitment. I’m very grateful for every opportunity Burundi has blessed me with.
Akeza.net: What was the process? Were you in touch with Beyonce?
Margaux Wong: It’s difficult to say what the process was. It’s not black and white. Like I said, I’ve been designing for the last 20 years, working and living in Burundi for the last 11 of those years. I’ve attended many trade and fashion shows in many places for example Guyana South America, New York City, Uganda, Egypt, Malawi,among others. I think the experience of showcasing my work and working on getting my jewelry and brand to international standards, while seeking the guidance of industry professionals, has helped me to get to this point. I showcased at Kampala Fashion Week in 2018 and 2019 and got some recognition from international industry professionals including Zarina Akers, the stylist of Beyonce.
I can’t speak much on it due to confidentiality, but being on that platform while striving to excel in my art has boosted my career in many ways. What has been important in my journey to this point has been my desire to be my best self every day. I am my biggest fan and worst critic. I tend to scrutinize my work until I’m 200% satisfied with the output. I think that shows in the work I put out there. I have also been building relationships with other designers and artists through the shows I’ve attended and I know that that has helped to boost my moral and given me courage to constantly put myself out there on platforms which benefit me.
Akeza.net: What do you expect to be the benefits?
Margaux Wong: I expect the holistic growth continue. I’ve seen my followers increase and also request for my catalogue and price list increase over night. I expect to have more orders due to the increase of traffic to my social media platforms and website. I expect more opportunities to tell my story and the stories of the people I work with. I expect to continue meeting amazing designers, mentors, fans and artists who inspire. I expect to continue growing in maturity as an artist, wife, mother, daughter, friend, employer and role model. I also expect to have more people recognize Burundi for the treasure it truly is. Many people are shocked to know that our jewelry is made here. I want them to know that Burundi is more than what the media portrays it to be. It’s a beautiful country whose people is gifted and have so much to offer to the world.
Akeza.net: Do you think this is a big step for your brand and the arts initiatives in Burundi?
Margaux Wong: This is definitely a huge step for my brand and Burundi as a whole. I am Guyanese by birth and came to live in Burundi at the age of 26. I was a young mother and professional following her Burundian husband to a country which I had never visited and knew little about. It was a move of faith and I knew that there was something great here for me and my family. Knowing of the limited amount of finished resources here for my craft pushed me to be innovative and my drive to create excellent work gave me the energy to encourage my employees to do their best. I know that Burundi is generally known for being poor and also for the genocide and war. I want to be among those who change that narrative to one of hope and positivity. I think the little I do to promote my work and all the people who are a part of our supply chain can contribute to a more positive narrative.
Akeza.net: Where else do we find your products?
Margaux Wong: For now in Bujumbura, our products can be found at Rusita Artisan- our family owned store at the Roca Golf Hotel . We also stock at Bold Africa in Kampala, The Narativ in Brooklyn New York and Saargale( owned by Senegalese designer Adama Paris) in Paris, France. We have been approached by online stockists and other stores recently but are currently rebranding, so not getting into other partnerships for the next few months.
Akeza.net: What’s your way forward? How do you plan to capitalize on this?
Margaux Wong: The way forward is to continue doing what we have been doing. We have been consistently working towards improving the quality of our accessories and being much focused about what we produce. Along with 5 other Africa based brands, I am currently the recipients of a prize from The Ethical Fashion Initiative, an organization which supports, mentors and creates platforms for sustainable designers to network and grow into their full potential. The EFI made an online call for Africa based fashion brands last summer to be a part of their Fashion Incubator. Out of 250 applicants all over Africa, 6 of us were chosen from South Africa, KENYA, Burkina Faso and Burundi (All six of the designers in the EFI incubator are included in Beyoncé ‘s directory of Black Owned Businesses to support).
We are all now working closely with the EFI family to produce new collections and do a complete rebranding in preparation to launch our African brands in Europe next year. It is a whole lot of work, but a dream comes true. My appearance on the amazing and most gracious Beyonce’s website directory is a part of this journey and I see how each experience and connection has impacted what we are seeing and celebrating today. Consistently working towards your goals and being excellent and full of faith, despite your circumstances, is the key to moving forward in any situation.
Interview by Melchisédeck BOSHIRWA