I am Leen Samyn and I call East Africa home. For the past eight years I have lived and worked among the various tribes and cultures of the Great Rift Valley in Northern Tanzania.
My journey began at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp under the tutelage of Walter Van Beirendonck- one of the “Antwerp Six” and an iconoclastic figure within avant-garde fashion design.
As a designer I’m drawn to the way clothing and jewelry contribute to the identity of tribal cultures and how local materials and traditional practices create these identities.
Unfortunately, East Africa has witnessed a recent decline in traditional craftsmanship and the use of local materials as traditional practices are increasingly replaced by Eastern materials and Western design practices.
My goal is to preserve these age old traditions by incorporating them into my designs. I draw inspiration from various tribes, learning from and implementing their skills to bring identity to my work. The renown Maasai beadwork features prominently in my designs. The Datoga, Tanzania’s blacksmith tribe, use ancient techniques to create brass clippings used in my line. All of the leather is sourced within East Africa and finished locally.
Each of my collections represent the work of a unique tribe from the Great Rift Valley. Each item is hand-crafted in the villages using traditional techniques passed on from generation to generation.
My goal is to foster these quickly disappearing crafts by creating a sustainable outlet for traditional design practices.
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