Africa is home to numerous beauties and wonders centuries old and encapsulating a divine heritage and history in its landscape. Journeying through the continents cardinal points immerses you in its majestic wonder. In the “Ventures Travel Interviews,” Vénicia Guinot follows the trail of international globetrotting artists, entrepreneurs, chefs, CEOs and designers, who share their most memorable travel experiences with our readers.

A sheer entrepreneur, Grace Wallace is popularly hailed as one of the Top Fashion Designers of Togo. Originally from Nigeria, Fashion Designer Grace Wallace’s journey has been quite interesting. Shortly after her graduation, she decides to pursue her love for fashion and to launch her own brand that will later on respond to the needs of her clientele and, at the same time, celebrate the African culture. Thus, in partnership with her husband, she founded KILIMANDJARO FASHION and started her business with a single brand. Having grown immensely in span of 8 years from a core team of merely ten employees to opening her own studio in Togo, Grace Wallace is fast becoming one of Africa’s success stories. With the joy of spreading a bit of her cultural heritage with every outfit created, her fashion house has emerged as a commendable business.

In this interview, Grace Wallace shares her passion for African tourism with our readers…

Welcome and thank you for granting us this interview. Please introduce yourself to our readers…

Hello everyone ! I am Grace Wallace, a Fashion designer based in Togo and the owner of the Kil Fashion by Grace Wallace brand.

I am glad to share my story and travel experiences with all Ventures Africa readers. Thank you for the opportunity.

Which country do you come from/call home? All in one, what is your heritage?

Well, first of all, my parents are Nigerians. My mum is from the Yoruba tribe and my dad is Igbo. They came to Togo during the Biafra War and they established there. I was born in and grew up in Togo. I couldn’t say that I feel totally Togolese. Even if I grew up in Togo, I am one of those persons who are always surrounded by their parents’ love and culture. So all in once, I think of myself as a daughter of both countries, Togo and Nigeria; finally that’s my heritage.

Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?

Well, I am more a  business traveller. I have the privilege of travelling a lot to showcase my creations. I am a career-driven woman and I am happy to discover new places, thanks to my work.

What is the first trip you remember taking in Africa and what are your favourite memories?

One of the first and important trips I made was going to Burkina-Faso. I can remember so many things I enjoyed in the country and, up to this day, I still can recall the time when we used to eat strawberries produced on the Burkinabes ground and under the hot West African weather. It was very interesting experiment for me and I will always cherish that moment.

Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

You know, I recently visited Senegal. Before going there, I thought it was just a very hot country where you eat Thiebou Dien every time. Well that’s the perceptions that I had before landing in the country! But to my big surprise, I realized that Senegal is a much more interesting country than I ever had imagined. It is a developing nation, and in fact the main capital Dakar is a quite beautiful city with great school system. I was very impressed with most things and I am now feeling more positive about Senegal. Should I not have taken this trip, I wouldn’t have known the real truth about this country. All in one, the experience was great and fulfilling.

Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling the African continent?

Yes ! I remember one day, I was in Nigeria and while visiting my mother, we decided to go to the market and do some shopping. Suddenly, we heard some gun shots which scared most of the people around us. After speaking to local people, we came to understand that i twas nothing major but police routine. They were trying to scare away some robbers who were trying to steal a car parked right in front of a bank. Seriously, that was so scary and I consider that to be a bad experience for me!

The media portrays the African continent as a no-go-zone. How do you feel about this label and how will you rate the African tourism system based on your personal experiences?

I think it is very sad to think that of Africa. Personally, I see Africa as a continent full of opportunities and our soil boasts so many natural resources and our cultural heritage deserves to be even more celebrated. According to my personal trips, i’ve noticed that some structures are not developed to handle and optimize the money coming from tourism.

Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so interesting for other visitors to discover?

I really love South Africa ! The first time I went there I was amazed by the hospitality of the local people.  From Cape Town to Johannesburg, I discovered that South Africa was a rainbow nation made of people who leave under the same roof with happiness. I cannot forget the delicious seafood and local wine I tested in Cape Town while enjoying my stay in one of the luxurious hotel. That was amazing !

Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?

My principal bucket list is seeing Kil Fashion by Grace Wallace’s showrooms open doors in every big cities of the world. That’s my dream and I am working hard towards its realization right now.

If you were not travelling, what would you be doing instead?

I think I should have spent a lot of time working on my next collections or paying a visit to some friends and family who are always there for me.

Take us through your daily activities and let us know how you still find time to juggle your professional career and travelling?

Every morning, I rise up in the morning with a nice cup of coffee. After that, I allow myself some time to play and pamper my last born baby. Afterwards, I get ready for work, and I spend most of the time in my designing studio. I travel a lot because my job is quite demanding and its is a necessity to go places and show what my hands are capable of crafting. I love my job and find it quite cool because I have the possibility of working and discovering new places globally, at the same time.

Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers and/or Government officials?

Yes, indeed I have couple of advice for aspiring travellers in West Africa. Togo is one of those African countries with a lot of tourist sites. For example, we have very original architecture in the Tamberma tribe which is located in the northern part of the country and also in the mountains region in Kpalimé. I think the government have to fit up these places and create new routes in order to attract more tourists. Togo has a lot of things to share with the rest of the world and our next step is to enhance them.

What has travel taught you?

During my trips, I have learnt a lot more  about different people I have encountered. I have learnt a lot of values from the people who crossed my path and most importantly, I have become more open-minded about other people’s cultures because they definitely enrich m life.

Quick fire questions:

Favourite airline company? Air France.

Favourite African city/country? Capetown, South Africa.

Favourite beach? Pure plage in Togo.

Favourite food? Akoumè.

Favourite language/dialect?  The Mina.

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