Chat with Athalia Barreau – owner of L’Elegance Africaine Seychelles |21 September 2021
‘I felt it was a calling and I had to stand for myself’
Today we have a chat with Athalia Barbe Barreau, owner of L’Elegance Africaine and Athalia Private Collection.
Athalia Barbe Barreau is a young Seychellois who is extremely passionate about sewing. Mother to a nine-year-old, Athalia is assuming the role of a single mother and also developing her career.
“I come from a family of artists – my grandmother does sewing, aunty, cousin etc went through tailoring. My mother also did tailoring and I was more influenced to study Visual Arts for three years at the Polytechnic. After that I went to work on Praslin in a hotel shop. When I saw the clients buying Seychelles products, I always asked myself where my products are,” shared Athalia.
Her passion for tailoring pushed her to start making cloth bags and ‘pareo’. And in 2013, she came back to Mahé, where she was without employment.
“I then decided to register myself with Senpa (Seychelles Enterprise Promotion Agency) – now Esa (Enterprise Seychelles Agency) – and created my business name Athalia Private Collection. Even if I took a leap of faith to create my own enterprise, there were some hiccups. Unfortunately, I went back to employment and worked for three years in a telecommunication company. In the middle of the pandemic, in May 2021 only, I decided to stop working! My boss asked me if I was sure of this decision! I told him yes as I felt it was a calling and I had to stand for myself and I saved some funds to kick start my business. I have no regret so far for believing in myself!” Athalia shared proudly.
Since then, Athalia started another niche market which is the ‘Elegance Africaine Seychelles’.
“The cloths I use are full of colours and the clients can experiment with them by ordering curtains, dresses, skirts, jackets and cushions. I have many clients and soon I will participate in the Fashion Week with my brand Elegance Africaine in November.”
Why Elegance Africaine? “We are Seychellois and we need to protect our culture. Personally I love these cloths after I received a sample of this cloth from my friend and that’s why I ventured in this line. Seychellois like to dress up and it is not difficult for them to adapt to new fashions. It is becoming trendier and the majority clients come to look for these cloths and end up giving me the job of making a dress/suit for them,” remarked Athalia.
How is business doing? “Since May, I must say business is good. Many clients come to me with a design but many also come without a clue as to how they want their outfit to be. For the time being I do not employ anybody. This business is here to stay as we will always need curtains, cushions and clothes. It is something quite profitable as I get orders from hotels and companies to design and make something special for them or even uniforms. For me Covid-19 has been an opportunity as many clients could not buy online,” shared the young entrepreneur.
What is your biggest achievement/compliment so far? “When one of my clients wore a dress I designed and made for her for a national broadcast on television. Many clients called me and reached out for me. She had many contacts and this helped promote my business,” shared Athalia.
Athalia encourages the young generation to join in the world of design, creativity and sewing. “Not many people can claim they can sew and this is something special. When I make an outfit for a client, I want that client to feel comfortable, happy and beautiful!”