Pathe Ouedraogo's big break came after he was discovered by South African singer Miriam Makeba, who lived out part of her long exile during apartheid in West Africa. She began wearing flowing Pathe O dresses onstage. When she returned home in 1994 to attend Mandela's Inauguration as president, she brought a bundle of Pathe O shirts as a present. Mandela fell for one model in particular, gold-hued with huge curlicues. That long-sleeve shirt and others like it--not all Pathe O--became a trademark
Pathe Ouedraogo's business boomed. He now has three boutiques in Cote d'Ivoire and others in Mali, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. He dreams of marketing his label worldwide, but says that's a distant prospect. Ouedraogo does not have the money to launch a global label, or the wherewithal to raise it. And despite a new U.S. tariff holiday for African clothing, he says, African governments have no interest in building a serious fashion in-dustry. "In all of Africa, there's not a factory that can produce a shirt like this," he said, ges-turing to one of his racks. "We have enormous possibilities in Africa--but we couturiers are artists." Still, some of his proteges, such as Nawal El Assad, Gilles Toure and Habiba Soukele, have made their own names. It will be up to younger designers like them to export African casual, he says. "What I've done is to open the door."