As Dina Yassin shares stories of her childhood summers in Asmara, her grandmother’s love for flowers or her late father’s university days, the Eritrean designer lights up. And it’s the same love for storytelling that underpins her latest brand Efro & Co, a vintage-inspired, ethically-minded, community-building collection, all sourced
or inspired by East Africa.
‘We take elements that meant something back in the day. Then we bring them back to life by telling a story,’ the designer and ‘efro-stylist’ explained during a field trip to Addis Ababa, where she picked up new pieces for her collection of wooden hair picks, as well as fabrics and a straw parasol from Mercato,
the biggest open air market in Africa. ‘We are pre-colonial authenticity with a modern spirit.’
‘Each piece is linked to my family somehow,’ Yassin says of her designs.
Whether it’s a particular wax print found on a recent trip to Tanzania, or the old photo albums of her late father, which form the basis of her range of graphic t-shirts, Yassin obsessively collects resources from East Africa, letting them permeate throughout her work.
‘Even our logo is the East African crowned crane, inspired by my father’s nickname, “Harshoy.”’
Born in Khartoum, Yassin was raised in Abu Dhabi and has lived in London, Virginia and New York, but says her heart remains in Africa. Her family has strong links to Addis Ababa, too. ‘It’s where my parents met and married. My grandparents have a home and business here, and many of my uncles, aunts and cousins are in Addis.’
The hair salons and patisseries of the Piazza neighbourhood bring back particularly nostalgic memories of her childhood trips to the city. ‘My mother would bring us to Piazza to get our hair done and our shoes shined by the young boys in the street, followed by a treat of some pastries and fruit juice.’
The ‘Fiori’ floral print dress takes its name from the Tigrinya and Italian word for flowers, but is inspired by Yassin’s late grandmother, Siti Mariem Yassin. ‘She loved bright colours and traditional floral print,’ says the designer, who recreated an old dress of her grandmother’s with added pockets and a slightly shorter hemline. ‘If she was still around, Moshe would totally be proud of me. She’d love the dress, especially the pockets – she used to tuck everything inside her petticoat, the traditional way.’