Vancouver Fashion Week FW 21 - Interview with Designer Emel of Alça (Japan)

Brand description -

In addition to this, you need to know more about it.

Alça is a clothing brand committed to the comfort and elegance of women. The brand focuses on embracing and enhancing the experience of being a woman in this day and age. Women of all shape and all cultural backgrounds can find comfortable and unique outfits that complement their beauty.


Bio -

Emel is a Djiboutian-Eritrean artist and founder of the online apparel brand ALÇA. She calls Tokyo her home, as she has lived there since 2011. Born and raised in Djibouti, she was drawn to art and the process of making clothes from scratch as a preteen. The Temple University graduate pursued Fashion in 2016 after getting her Bachelor Degree in Art. She had her first Solo Art exhibition in Tokyo’s finest area, Ginza, with as a special guest, her highness Princess Takamodo.   

Emel draws inspiration from her African roots as well the effervescence of the city she presently lives in, Tokyo. Her curiosity and artistic approach to Fashion allows her to create unique yet universal garments. From drawing, to painting, to sculpture, she explored the art world and found herself drawn back to her childhood love: fashion. She went on to attend pattern making classes at ESMOD JAPON to widen her skills set. While doing so, she was luckily featured in a Japanese local show “You Wa Nani Shi Ni Nihon E” following a day in the life of foreigners living in Japan.

The multifaceted artist quickly jumped on collaboration opportunities and one in particular changed her narrative. She befriended gallery owner Mizuka Kusaba who organized an exhibition called “Fashion and Art” with Emel and well-known painter, Tsunahisa Ogino. From then on, the self-taught designer embraced multiple collaborations. Her non-traditional journey to fashion and her heavy reliance on Art and Spirituality is what makes her vision appealing. In 2017, she officially started her brand and in 2019 had the opportunity to participate in both Vancouver Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020 and in Paris Fashion Week Fall Winter 2020.  This particular step helped her get media exposure through Jeune Afrique and Radio Canada. She is continuously shaping and running her fashion brand ALÇA while working on more artistic projects.

Interview - 

Please share a bit about your journey to choose a career in fashion? Where did you choose to studyor, if self-taught, how did you gain your skills?

I grew up in Djibouti, a tiny country I eventually left at the age of 18. I knew from the get go my future held a lot of surprises. As a child, my 6 year old imagination was always birthing new ideas. I liked drawing, posed as a sculpture model for a good friend of my father who was the wife of the United States ambassador to Djibouti. That exposed me to art early on. 

My fashion interest really started from a place of hurt and urgency.  I was very skinny and the clothes I liked the most did not fit me, so I started hand sewing pants, tops and skirts from my aunts' rejected kaftans and found myself proud of what I had achieved with so little knowledge. 

Fast forward to 2011, I was studying Art at the Temple University Japan Campus, but with a wild secret dream of pursuing my childhood passion - Fashion. I knew very little about it technically and theoretically, but the idea was stuck on my head's dream list. At the age of 26, once I graduated, I grabbed a sewing machine and registered for pattern making classes at ESMOD JAPON. While acknowledging the fact that I always had been outside the box, this time would be “the challenge of my life”. 

I now embrace the fact that I am for the most part a self taught designer that never stops learning . I chose this path despite my fear, despite my age and with the trust that the universe support me if it sees that my motivation and passion are strong.

What inspired you to launch your own label and why did you decide to name it Alça? What has been your highest, happiest moment since launching your line?

After spending a year and half practicing on my machine, watching tutorials on YouTube and taking classes at Esmod Fashion School, I was ready to give a name to what I was doing. I was going to hop on as many opportunities as Tokyo could offer, and for that I wanted to officially start a brand.

ALÇA (pronounced Alssa), means the moon in Afar, one of the 2 local languages in Djibouti. I always had admired the moon and the obvious feminine energy it gives, so it made sense for me to connect any of my works (sculpture, painting, drawing or sewing) to it.

Every show I was able to take part in is a blessing to me. In 2018, I did a collaboration exhibition called Fashion and Art in Tokyo with a Japanese gallery owner and a Japanese artist. Immediately after, I took my garments from the exhibit to Djibouti to do a fashion event over there. It was a beautiful experience to not only make my people proud, but to also introduce my country to my two Japanese friends who
had never stepped foot in Africa.

Shortly after that, the scariest and most beautiful thing happened. I was going to show my work at Vancouver Fashion Week. That boosted my confidence to a point where I truly believed that chances are limitless. I was not a painter, a sculptor or a fashion designer anymore. I was really anything that I called myself and worked hard to become. The show went well, giving me international exposure, more confidence and definitely the drive to do things my way. 

How would you describe your label? What is the aesthetic? Who is the customer you design for?

Coming from an artistic background, I treat my brand no differently than my artworks. The process is very similar. I had to learn the differences between the two and find a balance to have a create my esthetic. It is definitely an apparel brand, but it is not predictable. Every collection I have created so far has sprung from a different place in me.

The customer I design for is one who finds value in what I created and in the identity of the brand which is feminine and unapologetic. It's how I see myself and my journey, I took risks and experienced turns when people expected me to be a certain way, unapologetically. I hope to connect with and inspire customers who feel the same way.

Can you share something about the new FW21 Collection you'll be showing casing at Vancouver Fashion Week? What was the inspiration? What fabrics and palette did you use?

The collection is called ABUNDANCE, embraces simplicity. It is about how simple it is to be yourself - to be beautiful, to be human. It is not always easy but IT IS simple. I wanted to slow down, to take time, to filter out all the mind noise that usually interferes in the creative process. The collection features simple yet powerful garments -  easy to put on, easy to take of and easy on the eyes. Thus the word ABUNDANCE. Simplicity is an amplifier of gratitude and abundance.

I used Japanese kimono fabric, silk, shiny polyester, glittered fabric as well. The colors I used are dark red, dark purple, emerald-green and gold; colors that are very appealing to me and in sync with the shapes I wanted to create.

Do you have a favorite look in this collection? Is there one piece that is a must have every woman should purchase?

I like all of them, but if there was one to pick as a must have, it would have to be the red wrap dress that is half shiny and half glittery. I am in love with this piece because it so straight forward and in flow with the curves of the body. I think any woman would feel beautiful wearing it!

Where can readers find your garments? How can they purchase them?

Given that ALÇA is also an environment friendly brand, each piece is made only after you order it because no one likes waste! All you have to do is pre-order the garments now showing on our website at and, despite the corona and all that we have endured economically because of it, we will ship your purchase worldwide.  AND the shipping is FREE!

Links -With challenging COVID restrictions still in place, VFW will be offering a digital showcase of fashion films provided by both local and international designers showcasing their latest Fall Winter 2021 collections. Partnerships with several companies will launch this season with the opportunity for you to win stay-cation essentials, yummy treats, healthy-looking skin, and more. Keep a sharp eye out on their Social Media channels to have a chance to enter! For more information and for show schedule (TBA), please visit their website at