The Ivorian Concept Store That Doubles as a Creative Hub

Behind the scenes with Aziz Doumbia, the founder of Dozo — Abidjan's creative "embassy" that serves as a home for Cote d'Ivoire's most notable brands and its emerging creative culture.
Words:
Audrey Lang
Photography: Marie Ange Ahossane Adjounnin, Audrey Lang

When Aziz Doumbia left Paris to return home, Abidjan’s creative scene was bursting at its seams. With the encouraging influx of emerging brands and designers, Doumbia’s passion project quickly became to provide a home and representation for these creators.

Meet Dozo — a concept store that houses a variety of African brands, primarily Ivorian, such as Kente Gentlemen, Loza Maléombho, Olooh Concept, Missouwa, and Vintage Nation and also doubles as a creative hub, where tastemakers gather to unwind, brainstorm and plan events. The space offers a unique shopping experience, but more importantly, Doumbia has made it his duty to empower local creatives. Now, Dozo is Abidjan’s epicenter of creativity.  

Around the world, the retail industry faces a crossroads: consumers have changed the way they shop, making it more challenging for retailers to come up with the right formula to win them over. Whatever the formula, Doumbia is certainly willing to figure it out. With Dozo under his belt, he’s leveraging everything he’s learned and the creative community he’s helped to foster, and beginning to experiment with new ideas and expand to other cities. 

In an interview with Afriquette, Aziz speaks candidly about how he got his start, his push to help small brands, and his fervor for a cultural revolution. 

"Dozo is an embassy — there are thousands of young creative people who need a landmark in the city that respects art and understands its importance. It is here that we come together and build strength."

Tell me a bit about yourself

My name is Aziz Doumbia. I am 28 years old and I am Ivorian. I was born in Abidjan and moved to Paris after receiving my baccalaureate to continue my studies in International Trade and Marketing. I developed my interest in fashion, arts, and culture around high school: I was part of a band, we released an independent album and started to earn money, I think this was my true first experience with entrepreneurship.

Describe Dozo to someone who has no idea what it is.

Dozo is an embassy. It is a house, a café, a shop and an incubator, all at the same time. We have managed to create a small piece of land in our image, that thinks like us, in the center of the city of Abidjan. We (tastemakers) spend our evenings here, discussing what we did and what we should do. We exchange our views on business opportunities, the difficulties we endure, and celebrate our successes together. There are thousands of young creative people who need a landmark in the city that respects art and understands its importance. It is here that we come together and build strength. That’s the idea behind Dozo: functioning as a pack.

What inspired you to launch Dozo?

During school, I worked for SO & SO Ethik concept, a concept store in Paris. I then started organizing pop-ups around Paris to help brands with their communication. When I returned to Abidjan, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of cool new brands and realized that they needed a platform that could represent them in a rewarding way. I started by launching a pop-up boutique for designers, which worked really well. After 2 years, it was time to do something more solid so we went on to launch Dozo. The idea behind it is really to create a meeting point for all brands, all artists, and all creatives. That’s the strength of the shop —that it is surrounded by a very strong community. It allows us time and space to test and launch new concepts more easily. LA SUNDAY (a mini festival in Abidjan) started right in front of the shop and today it has grown so fast that we’ve developed other formats like La Braderie and Master Class.

LASUNDAY — a mini festival in Abidjan that was born on Dozo's front steps

Tell me about fashion in Babi (Abidjan)?

In Abidjan, the fashion ecosystem is relatively small and divided into 2 main groups. You have the older generation with creators such as Gilles Touré, Pathé’O, and Nawal El Assad, who for us were the precursors of the industry and are the names we have always heard associated with parades, decorations by the government, etc. Today, you have the new wave that has for the most part been birthed by Loza Maleombho — you can see her influence on all young brands from the choice of materials to cuts to fonts to logos. When she first exploded through social media, she opened the doors to the international realm and executed a dream from scratch. She made young Ivorians realize what is possible.

How does Dozo help smaller brands?

We make a lot of noise but we are still a very small company, at the moment, so the bulk of our work is to advise, to accompany, and to support the communication level by creating events for collections. In the end, we hope to really work as an incubator to fund, take shares in the brands, and fully invest in their journey. We have started to expand our team and are starting to do our first tests with partner brands

Where does your interest in culture, fashion, travel come from?

With time, we have all discovered how much we have contributed to belittling our own culture. We discovered how rich Ivorian music is yet how much we have been conditioned to devalue all that is black. This idea of embracing one's’ identity reverberates here at Dozo. Once we remove this prism from our eyes, we want to rediscover everything and to retell our stories with these new points of view. This state of mind is not just something good for Africa but for everyone. When you come to Africa, it's important to discover new brands, new aesthetics and new relationships with food and culture. This is our fight.

What motivates you?

Injustice (laughs).

Who are some of your favorite designers? 

IAMISIGO, Oooh Concept, Iefo, Kente Gentlemen, AWL, Johanna Bramble, Imalk, Bee's et Loza Bien sûr .

Where do you hope to take this?

We want to conquer the world. Before the end of this year, we will be in Ghana, Senegal, Mali and Paris, if God allows.

Collaborations that can be expected in the future?

Yes, we hope that Kanye will work with us on some men's jewelry. (laughs) 

What are your plans for the future of Dozo?

To develop our distribution chain. We hope to open more shops in Abidjan and outside of Cote d’Ivoire. We do not want to stay a niche but we really hope to make our brands accessible to as many people as possible. 

In Abidjan? Visit Dozo at 24, Avenue Boga Doudou, the shop is open Tuesday - Sunday. On Instragram, you can keep up with Aziz (@aziz.da) and Dozo (@dozo.abidjan).