They say first impressions count. Having visited the Diane Paris showroom in Sandhurst, Sandton, I must say I’m highly impressed. The showroom is warm, colourful and luxurious, and makes you feel like you’ve just stepped into in your dream walk-in closet. It feels like home.
The Diane Paris brand has built a reputation that stands for elegance and timeless glamour and to my pleasant surprise, the business woman behind the brand is only 32 years old.
Diana Pengilly, née Tadjuideen, founder of Diane Paris, saw a gap in the South African market and has now established her brand in the South African fashion scene. We chat to her about fashion, love and her future aspirations to expand her brand across the continent and much more.
Read our interview below with the Paris born entrepreneur of Polish and Togolese decent.
How would you describe a Diane Paris customer?
She is a little bit like me. She’s very busy, works but has family to take care of and travels a lot. She’s someone who needs to look good the whole day but also needs to feel comfortable which is very important. She’s aware of trends and wants to look glamourous.
Is there a defining moment for you when you realised that you wanted to start a fashion brand?
Not really. I’ve always been in the industry. I started modelling at the age of 16. I then started making my own clothes with the help of my aunt who was a dress maker as I couldn’t find a few things in the market for myself to wear to events. I started off making clothes for myself, but soon other people started asking and I started making clothes for my friends as well until my mom was like “Diana why don’t you make more so that more people can enjoy your designs since everyone is liking them”. So that’s how the business started growing slowly.
In three words how would you describe your journey building the Diane Paris brand?
Exciting, patient, passionate.
How has the transition from model to business woman been like?
I love it. I love it because I’ve always been more than a model. Whilst I was modelling, I finished my Masters in Commerce International in Paris at a private commerce school. I was not just a pretty face. I was always trying to understand what happened behind the scenes, helping out wherever I could. I was doing more than what was required of me as a model. I’ve never considered myself just a model. I’ve always done stuff on the side. This transition to launch my brand was very obvious once I finished my studies because I learnt how to run a business and other practical aspects of launching my brand.
It is said that “love” brought you to Johannesburg. Can you share a bit more about that?
I met my husband in London and as a French person in Paris, you don’t find many South Africans there. I had never met a South African until I met my husband. He told me he wanted to show me his country because at some point he would like to move back there, and he wanted to see if I would enjoy it.
The first time I arrived in South Africa it was in Johannesburg and it was the same day that Nelson Mandela had died. It was raining the whole week and I was thinking oh my god is this Africa? It was very interesting. We went to Cape Town next and I just fell in love. I was supposed to stay 2 weeks in Cape Town and I stayed 5 months. I resigned from my work, my husband went back to London, and I stayed by myself. I asked my modelling agency to find me an agent in Cape Town so that I could at least do a few things there. I had time to think about what I would like to do and that is when I decided to start my fashion brand again.
Has your African heritage had any influence in your style and what you bring to the Diane Paris brand?
Yes definitely. French people are a bit afraid of colours and print. They like your classic navy, white etc. They’re not so adventurous. But I’m loving prints and bold colours and this is definitely not from my French side but African. My collections have incorporated bold reds and yellows and floral and geometrical prints. I went all out. I’m loving it and I’m glad everyone is as well. Do you have any plans to expand the Diane Paris brand across the continent?
Yes definitely. I would love that. I thought about it 2 years ago, but I’m quite a perfectionist, so I need to perfect our operations in South Africa first before expanding to other countries. We’re already getting requests to supply luxury concept stores in other African countries but I don’t want to move too fast.
What’s the best fashion advise you have ever received?
Don’t follow fashion.
*You can visit the Diane Paris showroom at 55 Stewart Place & Empire Place, Sandhurst, Sandton. Open Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm and on Saturday 10am – 3pm.