Curiously cool and multi-talented Mike Sylla
The curiously cool and multi-talented Mike Sylla grew up in Senegal, but has lived and worked in Paris for more than two decades. He started his current venture, Baifall Dream, in 1990 – and their uniquely raw and edgy hand painted leather creations are now available exclusively online and in the UK at ShopCurious (click on the photos to view). I recently interviewed Mike to find out more about what he does and why it’s so special.
Having worked for Lee Cooper, Chevignon, Francesco Smalto and Marithe Francois Girbaud, Mike’s first Baifall Dream fashion show was in Paris in 1993 and was appropriately held in a factory for recycling boxes. As well as being one of the first to revamp vintage clothes and give them new life, another key difference from the mainstream was that Mike provided his own music, art and entertainment for his shows, turning them into operas of Afro-Pop-Art style.
I was curious to find out exactly what ‘Baifall Dream’ means and Mike explained to me that the word Baifall is to do with being in the place you’re supposed to be in and doing what is best for you at any time of your life – so I guess that Baifall Dream has a lot to do with following your path or your dream.
Mike’s father made jewellery in Dakar in Senegal and that’s where Mike believes his inspiration came from. – he tells me that his father “created a feeling of warm-heartedness through his jewellery.” However,”the theory of Baifall is about reviving rather than creating something, it’s about generating a sense of warmth and love through revitalising fashion”. Mike feels that the street is the best place for this – it’s where people love fashion and art and they feel very strongly about what they wear and what it means.
Mike grew up in the artists’ area of Dakar and was inspired by the freedom provided by a mix of cultures and openness of ideas of “L’Afrique du Monde”. Baifall Dream aims to connect with people around the world and share in a global fashion federation, where artists help each other in a positive way to not only express themselves, but to create something of lasting benefit to society.
Mike works with a collective of artists who call themselves ‘The Human Tribe’,and expertly paint their artworks onto recycled leather clothing and accessories. Their aim is to give vintage clothing a new life and a new language.
Mike explains that Baifall Dream isn’t merely a fashion label: “it’s more a philospophy, a lifestyle and an energy that the ‘Human Tribe’ want to share”. Mike adds that Baifall Dream is also about being curious, extrovert and avante-garde – he feels that the African culture is always looking for something new – and he is certainly always thinkng outside the box.
He no longer follows the ‘rules of the fashion industry’, but creates exclusive and individual pieces according to the technique of painting on leather that he has developed and mastered over the past 15 years. All of his creations are made completely my hand and his team consists of artists of many nationalities from all over the world. Mike provides ideas and inspiration for the designs and the artists are given free reign to improvise and come up with their own interpretation of an image. He has progressed from selling only to his friends, who are mainly artists and musicians, but to people further afield, for instance the King of Morocco has 9 Baifall jackets.
Mike is multi-talented and plays a range of traditional Senegalese instruments. He performs at Baifall Dream’s Slam Operas, combining fashion, music, theatre, poetry and dance - not just in Paris, but around the world. He also runs and manages a traditional Senegalese restaurant/salon de the called Le Theranga, where regular ‘slam’ (rap-style performance poetry) and music events are held ... and, if you're lucky he'll make you some of his delicious mint tea.
As for the future, Mike’s ideal way to spend time would be to sit next to fishermen by the sea in Dakar, to fish with them – and be paid in fish … though he says he’d also love to have a fashion show in London showing 50 of his amazing coats – all worn by 'real' people with strong personalities.
Thanks Mike, we’ll be looking out for you in London.