BEST OF ISSUE ONE: Rym Beydoun’s interplanetary fashion takes off from Abidjan and lands in Beirut


Rym Beydoun does not mince her words — or intentions — with Super YAYA. As her brand’s definitive slogan T-shirts scream, it’s all about being unashamedly “100% Afrocosmic”.

“I come from a city where everything is exaggerated — extra, super, 100 per cent — that is a constant,” explains the Abidjan- born designer. “Côte d’Ivoire comes with a lot of baggage and is rarely represented in the way I saw it growing up. Spending every weekend on a beach that feels infinite. Being in a place where we had this sense of togetherness, where I was surrounded not just by people but by nature as well. The country was living its first independent years and I saw in it my past, my present, my future. I felt blessed to be born and raised there. Super YAYA is my way to show that.”

Beydoun’s family hail from Lebanon but have spent four generations in West Africa. Having settled in Abidjan, they were forced to leave during the first political coup in 1999, so she devoted her teenage years in Beirut to dreaming of home. She studied fashion at London’s Central Saint Martins and returned to Abidjan for her placement year, where she interned for Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud’s menswear brand, Laurenceairline, as well as for
a tailor called Miguel. “He was super slick — his shop was on the street and looked really rough but very chic, and he made suits for ministers and big shots.”

“To me fashion is essential, it is a flow of waves reinventing dress codes and aesthetics”

She also worked at the Uniwax factory to learn the art of wax print — a fabric ubiquitous to the city’s “in your face street style”, she says. “Prints are communicators and each one means something. There are ones for you to wear when your husband cheats, when you’re wealthy, when you want to thank Jesus,” she adds. “So with Super YAYA, if I feel like saying something, I write it on a T-shirt. That’s it.”

After graduating in 2013, Beydoun took time to travel around West Africa with her camera, while forming the ideas behind the brand. At first, it was an ecommerce take on the local fashion system — having your choice of style made from fabrics bought in the market — but has since evolved into full collections currently stocked in Tokyo, Berlin, Los Angeles and New York. She works alongside consultant Makram Bitar and photographer Joyce Sze NG to constantly evolve Super YAYA, both from her base in Beirut and on trips to Abidjan to source materials and shoot visuals.

SS18, entitled Reconciliation, is deeply personal. “I had a few tough months with things in general and the universe. My AW17 production caught fire, so I lost everything, and some of my relationships were strained. When I was working on this season it was important to make peace. I had learnt a lesson and wanted to teach a lesson.” Also drawing on happy memories of motor crossing on sand dunes listening to Alpha Blondy’s woozy reggae track ‘Super Power’, and inspired by Côte d’Ivoire’s modernist architecture, the fresh collection of baggy satin suits, ra-ra skirts and smocked leggings gives off a brazen air. These are surreal clothes to wear for cartwheeling into a mystical tomorrow.

Beydoun has also indulged her love of burning rubber with a Pirelli-style 2018 calendar, and is working on a book and film. Meanwhile AW18 fully embraces her 1990s #nostalgique — it’s what a nine- year-old would wear to go ice skating in a very hot country. “To me fashion is essential, it is a flow of waves reinventing dress codes and aesthetics that can be practically adapted or adopted by society at various times for different reasons,” she muses. “I make sure my work exists in ways that help to transform or transit. We spend our lives looking for meanings, so making meaningless things can’t be very satisfying, not for me at least.”

This feature was originally published in issue one of Nataal magazine. To discover more, and buy a copy, click here

Styling Makram Bitar
Models Rym Beydoun, Paule Magniné
Words Helen Jennings
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Published on 27/12/2018