Souadou Barry always knew she wanted to design and create. Having grown up around the Arts, she was influenced in that way from a very early age. So it was no surprise when she decided to study architecture in France, and later in the US. However, the art in architecture would prove to take longer to surface than Souadou was willing to bear, so she turned to fashion. It was another passion of hers, and she had full control over the outcome from design to creation at a much faster rate. I caught up with the brilliant and talented architect/designer from her home in Jacksonville, FL, to talk about what inspires her to create such beautiful designs, and what inspires her and what it’s like to live her dream. Read the interview below.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself - where you were born, and about your life growing up.
My name is Souadou Barry; founder and creative director at Fulani. I was born and raised in Dakar Senegal. I’ve always been very creative and loved drawing and making things with my hands. I grew up surrounded with Art and my parents taught me to dream big and to always try to be the best at what you choose to be. I studied Architecture in France and in the US. I’ve traveled to many parts of Europe, Africa and the USA and each travel has been a well of inspiration for my designs.
In 2011 I started Fulani; Fashion has always been a passion of mine besides Architecture. It’s been a very interesting ride so far with many challenges to be met, but isn’t part of the game as long as you still enjoy?
When did you first start designing handbags? I’m sure there’s a story there. Please spill…
Over the years I have developed a growing interest for fashion; especially handbags and shoes. Contrary to buildings in Architecture with accessories the process to the finished product is much faster, there’s an instant gratification. I also love being able to work on a smaller scale which allows me to really focus on the details. I was working with a fabric called Rabbal for a home décor project when the idea to use it for handbags came to me.
This fabric comes in vibrant and beautiful colors…its shimmery, unique and glamorous….I thought “which women wouldn’t love to carry a bag in this fabric?” I knew I would!
You have created some really beautiful designs/products, what has your journey to success been like? Describe some of the challenges and rewards you’ve faced.
I would not say that I am successful yet; I have still a long way to go and many challenges to face. But the ones I have overcome have made me a better design and business manager.
When I was just starting I read a lot about other designers and their paths to success, and the lessons learned was that the way to success is always paved with challenges and that as you grow so will the challenges. I have learned not to shy away from them.
Building a fashion brand is 10% design and 90% production, management and marketing. It takes many trials and errors to build the right structure and team that you need to establish your brand and turn your business into a profitable enterprise.
Another challenge is to define your Brand’s DNA and develop your core product that you will build upon.
These are choices and decisions that you need to make early on and then take 10 to 15 years to implement and develop them to expand your brand.
I get rewarded everyday because I love what I am doing; I enjoy every aspect of it, not just the design part. I also get a big bust of energy when my customers tell me how much they love my creations; it always makes my day and keeps me going!
Why the name “Fulani”? Does it have any special meaning to you?
Fulani is the name of a nomadic ethnic group from which I’m from. They traveled from Northern Africa and settled down in many parts of West Africa. In their long journey down they encountered different cultures and each of them has made them who they are today. Like my nomadic ancestors I have traveled the world. I lived in Africa, Europe and America and as a designer my inspiration comes from all the places I’ve been and the place I come from.
Describe the woman (or man) who is likely to buy a Fulani handbag.
Each bag is designed with the active contemporary woman’s needs in mind. My line offers a piece for every occasion and some are versatile enough to take you from day to night. My perfect muse is fearless, highly fashionable, elegant but yet practical….. I try to keep my collections in classic and elegant silhouettes that will stand the test of time, but still very much current with what is happening in fashion.
We both know every new business venture involves guts, the willingness to take risks, and the willingness to live with disappointments. How do you stay committed to your mission with all that’s working against you?
Building a brand is an emotional experience filled with ups and downs and many times I do feel insecure as most designers are. More than often points of views will defer, but I always try to turn my critics into coaches. If they have something to say, I will listen and learn from them instead of felling sorry and disappointed. If you trust your instinct and have a clear understanding of what your goals are, you can stay focused. Staying true to myself makes it easy to stay committed.
Most of all be flexible, and have the ability to reinvent yourself.
Your designs are definitely breathtaking. What kind of fabric(s) do you use in your designs?
I use a woven fabric inspired by a traditional hand woven cloth that is custom made for special occasions such as weddings and baptism.
Where is Fulani based? Are you solely an online business, or do you have a physical location for walk-in shoppers? What’s the ordering process for online orders? Do you offer (or plan to offer) any other accessories besides handbags and clutches?
Fulani is based in Jacksonville, FL. We are only selling online for now with plans to expand into boutiques in the near future.
Shopping online is made easy on our website at www.fulanihb.com and we also ship internationally.
Our vision is to build a life style brand with product ranging from accessories to apparel and home décor.
Thank you for graciously granting this interview. You are truly an inspiration and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Do you have any words of encouragement for AG readers, or anything you want readers to know that I may have neglected to ask?
It was a pleasure to do this interview for AG, I always get inspired by other designers and entrepreneurs like myself, I hope I have inspired a few of your readers. Having the drive to succeed will always be your most powerful asset. The way to success is never an easy one, but make sure that you have a plan and don’t be afraid to ask for help; because it takes a solid team to turn a business profitable.
Souadou Barry is generously offering a special Valentine’s discount to AFRIKAN GODDESS readers: 15% off purchases plus free shipping,
The offer will end on 02/14/2013 so hurry!!!
To place an order, do to http://www.fulanihb.com/#!valentine-gift-shop/c1n9u and enter promotion password: fulaniheartyou
Comment below for a chance to win a Fulani clutch!!! P.S. please use your real email address so we can contact you if you win.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Valentine’s Day Giveaway : AFRIKAN GODDESS MAGAZINE | February 5, 2013