Behind the Xuly Bet fashion label, there is Lamine Badian Kouyate, a Malian. His Boutique is in the fashionable forum des Halles in Paris. He started out in 1989 with an urban-pluri-ethnic fashion based on bits and pieces from second-hand clothes. By making then an "in" thing, he managed to impose an almost revolutionary style on the elitist world of French fashion. Today, Xuly Bet has taken up the challenge of production and international distribution. Let us take a look at the man who finds inspiration in the streets of Paris.
Xuly Bet was born in Bamako on 28 December 1962. He is the fifth child in a family of 6 boys. His father, married to a Senegalese doctor, was a minister. As a teenager, he went to Dakar and obtained his diploma from the school of Fine Arts and Architecture.
He decided to continue studying architecture and chose the city of Strasbourg. "I couldn't study architecture in Bamako or Dakar. France offered me an opportunity", he said. So Lamine set about constructing clothes. His method was to turn clothes bought in the Flea Market into elegant and sexy outfits. Even if he no longer uses second-hand clothes, this creative attitude has remained the same. "What is characteristic of my style is sensuality, the second-skin aspect and the over-layering".
Xuly Bet signature is easy to pick out with his red thread and visible seams. "I do not create "the woman". I create clothes for those who follow my idea". The same as for the seams, Xuly Bet's label is on the outside. If he does not conceal anything, the same is true of the bodies that he clothes.
His models are close fitting and have low necklines. They are often made of lycra and Xuly Bet adds African know-how to European fabrics. Some of the patterns are made locally using traditional methods. For instance, the technique of "tying and dyeing in which the material is tied and then dipped into a vat of dye. The result is a unique, star shaped pattern with the colors distributed unevenly on the material. The designer creates for all women, even if, he admits, "young people are more sensitive to my style. It is also thanks to my prices which are relatively affordable". Although Xuly Bet refuses an over-sophisticated style, he still manages to enter the closed world of Paris fashion.
He paid homage to Yves Saintt Laurent on the occasion of his fashion show at the Carrousel of the Louvre in 1998. "I have an affinity with him. He put women on a pedestal and takes an interest in what is happening outside the western world"'. Lamine, who is self-taught has inspired other designers by extolling simplicity. "I have brought materials from sport and lingerie into ready-to-wear. I have left the noble side of classical clothes. I have gone out into the streets".
For his fashion shows he used models from all over the world. Some of them have achieved a reputation thanks to him. This is the case with the Somalian Waris Dirie, a top model for Chanel and co-author of "Fleur du Desert", a work on female excision.
Other stars clothed by Xuly Bet include the French actresses Ophelie Winter, Elodie Bouchez and Arielle Dombasle, the American singers Janet Jackson and Neneh Cherry and the Spanish actress Rossy de Palma.
For Xuly Bet, Paris is unique. "It is quite an atypical city". Wandering about the Paris streets, he finds inspiration. "Success is difficult to manage, Lamine says simply "We have to learn to meet demand. That is why we are going through a period of restructuring to organise the production and distribution better".
He is now present all over France, England, Scandinavia, the US, Japan, Brazil and Africa, and is developing (Leclerc is one of them with NafNaf new ligne) a line of sports clothes, lingerie and cosmetics. Through his work, this Malian designer is also a militant. "I want to transpose all the experience that I have acquired in France, to Africa". To help a continent, one needs to know it and so he is at one with his pseudonym Xuly Bet which, in wolof, means "He who keeps his eyes open, he whose look tries to see through appearances".