Diane Nkoa (20) is a Cameroonian fashion designer based in Tunisia who is advancing the approach of women and menswear. Her designs challenge the often-narrow rules that accompany Tunisia’s fashion by creating evolving, provocative, implicit yet comfortable clothing. Diane’s design aesthetic has an emphasis on superior construction, movement, textures, strong silhouettes, and innovative technics.

Whether you love discovering new clothing lines, wearing ‘It’ pieces before the masses, or shopping brands that others are less familiar with, emerging designers such as Diane are well worth your attention.

In December 2019, she officially launched ADN by Diane to exhibit her work as a fashion designer. “I wanted to finally showcase my work after being scared for a while to publicly put the title of ‘fashion designer’ next to my name. I am glad that I actually did it! Now, my brand is really doing well, more than I expected.

Currently, young people are drawn toward the fashion industry for the way of life it represents.  For Diane, the fashion bug bit her quite early! “I started designing clothes when I was 13 years of age. After High School, I received a scholarship to study fashion designing at ESMOD Tunisia, where I’m currently still studying. They offer topflight programs in design and business to cover the full range of the fashion industry’s demands,” she says.

She describes her design aesthetic as; “Sometimes I’ll describe it as minimalist and sometimes extravagant; I cannot quite put my finger on it! So, I just do whatever comes to mind. I just love expressing my creativity. The inspiration behind my designs is everything around me. I could be staring at a tree and find inspiration,” she says.

According to Invest in Tunisia – The Textile & Apparel Sector in Tunisia is positioned as a cornerstone of the Tunisian industry and keeps a prominent place in the national economy while maintaining a strong contribution to the socio-economic balance of Tunisia

“The fashion industry in Tunisia is really thriving! Some European brands make their clothes in Tunisia and I really like how fashion designers incorporate the Tunisian culture into their designs. However, I do not align my brand with the fashion trends in my country because I want to create new trends. Some Tunisian designers focus their work on wax, which is good but not innovative for the current fashion era,” she says.

Diane looks up to fashion designers such as Anissa Meddeb, who is originally from Tunisia, born and raised between Tunis and Paris. In 2016, Anissa launched her label Anissa Aida – The brand is a mix and match of inspirations from Tunisia and Japan, both cultures rich in heritage and traditional craftsmanship. I love how minimalist her style is. Internationally, I am inspired by Iris Van Herpen because her clothes and fabric are daring and thoughtful. She is a Dutch fashion designer known for fusing technology with traditional Haute Couture craftsmanship. She opened her own label Iris van Herpen in 2007,” she says.

We asked her to describe the inspiration behind two of her designs and this is what she had to say:

“For this design, I drew inspiration from Laetitia Ky, an artist based in the Ivory Coast, who makes unbelievably inventive sculptures with her hair. She just needs some wire, thread, and her own hair.  I wanted to make a dress using wire, but the final dress was not what I drew at first. The first design was straight and not circular. Because the wire came tied circular, I just decided to use it as it was, instead of straightening it. For the lingerie underneath, we had just learned to do it at school and I just wanted to practice,” she says.

This design was inspired by my absolute love for lingerie! That’s why I chose to study it this year. I think that lingerie is too beautiful to just be worn as an undergarment. The garter belt is the perfect accessory to make clothing look sexy. I made a corset, and a pair of shorts that can be lengthened if wanted and added a shirt to make it classier.

Diane’s plans to grow her brand include collaborating with industry role players.

“I plan to do fashion shows; collaborate with other brands and concentrate on identifying innovative fabrics for my brand. Ideally, I would like to build an established brand that would one day become a form of reference for innovative and eco-friendly fabrics. My wish is to see icons wearing my brand and for ADN to be a style movement that showcases Tunisia’s talents,” she concludes. 

Photographer: Joel Kalenga