1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Before moving to Johannesburg in 2001, I lived and worked in Los Angeles and New York and worked in fashion for brands such as Eileen Fisher, Tiffany & Co. and Gucci America. While living in Los Angeles, I worked as a fashion stylist while focusing on product placement and marketing of fashion brands through celebrity client relationships. Over the past 13 years, my focus has been on telling the story of the African continent in innovative ways through fashion, design, television and film production. I am also a member of the founding class of the African Leadership University School of Business founded by Fred Swaniker.
2. Did you study formally, and if so, how did this inform your future career?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and African History from University of Virginia. Have studied abroad in Spain at the University of Granada. I received a post-graduate degree of the Arts from Wits University and am currently a member of the founding class of the African Leadership University School of Business founded by Fred Swaniker. Studying formally helped me to structure my vision and also broadened my mind to the many ways in which I can approach manifesting ideas that I have. It has also created a network of colleagues that I can lean on as my brain trust.
3. What key aspects will you be looking at when judging contestants’ work?
Ingenuity, originality and innovation.
4. What are your thoughts on art and design in South Africa and Africa as a whole?
Art from the continent is in high demand globally because it is rich in history, stories and a unique artistic identity. A known fact is that South Africa is fast becoming a leader in art investment. Many of our artists are now getting their due and recognition through residencies abroad and proper valuation of their arts worth.
5. What advice would you give young and up-and-coming designers and artists?
I would tell them to never lose their essence and always be original. Be sure to master the art of creating art that is commercially viable, investment worthy yet authentic.
6. What has been the highlight of your career?
Each day is a highlight on the journey I’m on because I wake up assuring myself that I will take more risks, do at least one thing out of my comfort zone and stay open to the serendipity that happens when one focuses on their vision each day.
Image provided by Museum of African Design where Allana Finley is a board member.