When Susan Anyiri Paul was let go from her job in June 2020, she decided to lean into her creative side. She had always loved to sew and started creating pieces in her new-found spare time.
After Paul realized the mask she sewed for her sister was good enough to sell, Anyiri Styles was born. Paul has been selling her pieces featuring bold African prints, and her inventory has grown from masks to headbands, wrap skirts, makeup bags and custom clothing.
Though Paul is from Sudan, she gravitates toward West African fabrics for her pieces. She sources these fabrics from a few stores in Toronto that specialize in West African fabrics and cultural wear. With help from her sisters, she chooses colours and patterns that draw her eye and make her happy.
“The brighter they are, the more I’m attracted to them…Every fabric I ever bought was because I fell in love with it,” Paul said.
When she shops for fabric, Paul intentionally avoids any specific tribal prints or those with specific cultural significance so that her customers can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are appreciating and supporting a Black-owned business, not appropriating African culture.
“My prints are for everyone…as soon as it’s in a store and out of my hands, you can wear it because [in that instance] I’m not making it for a specific group of people,” she said.
Paul also notes that those who are experimenting with bold African prints for the first time might not want to wear them head-to-toe and that’s alright. She makes headbands and coordinated separates so that everyone can play with their style at their own pace.
As formal events are beginning to drip back into the social calendar, Paul’s customers have also asked her for unique custom pieces that will help them stand out.
The process is simple. Paul takes measurements, collaborates with customers on the design and the fabric and creates a custom piece that fits well.
“I sew based on your body type…And that’s why I enjoy it so much, because I really have to get to know you and figure out what you like,” she said.
Once she has those measurements, the process is only easier from there. From prom to bridesmaid dresses and everything in between, Paul has enjoyed making formal occasions fun for her clients.
Paul says that her approach to style can be summed up by a popular African attitude toward clothing:
“Every African person you meet will tell you this: if you love it and you’re happy with it, wear it.”
You can find Anyiri Styles in store at Artisanal Design Co. and online on Instagram @anyiri_styles.
Caitlin Mulroney is a digital content creator who founded @mytechwardrobe after navigating casual dress codes in the tech industry. She now inspires others on her social platforms with her unique fashion styling and how-to videos. Look for her new "Wearing WR" column monthly where she'll highlight topics like local sustainable fashion, LGBTQ2+ options, size inclusivity, and more.