Tanjong is the founder of Anima Iris, a luxury handbag brand named after her childhood best friend “Anima” and her mother “Iris, and is made in Dakar, Senegal. Launched earlier this year, her quality, handcrafted designs have caught the attention of thousands of users on social media and the fashion community.
The Princeton graduate and now Wharton business student says her love of fashion started very young. “As a child, I always remember being really into fashion,” said Tanjong in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE. “I always loved dressing up [and] just looking very nice. I think that was something that was just part of my culture as well. We always had to look nice.”
During her time at Princeton, she was very engaged in the Black community on campus while studying African Development. Once she graduated, she found herself unhappy in her comfortable job and wanted to take a chance on herself, taking a six-month leave of absence to explore the African continent including Kenya and Senegal. It was there she started the African Hustle Series to highlight young African entrepreneurs in various industries.
Tanjong ended up in Senegal because there was no visa requirement to stay and she stayed in Dakar where she made connections with various artisans that inspired her to make handbags. “That’s when I started thinking I wanted to make something,” she explained. “I just wanted to make something for myself [at first]”
After experimenting with her craft and brainstorming ways to recoup her savings from traveling. She decided to quit her job to go full time after she took the chance to build the brand after receiving positive feedback even amid the pandemic.
“I don’t feel like I went to Senegal and all of this happened for no reason, I felt like there was more,” Tanjong said. “I understand that I have a purpose in life and if I am following the path that God has paved for me then I cannot fail.”
Since then Amina Iris has become a trendy sought-after handbag from various fashion influencers. Since going viral on Twitter, she has expanded her team and operations, moving back to Senegal to ensure her high-quality designs and establish an on-the-ground team. For 2021, Tanjong has big visions for her brand.
“What I realized this company can be and should have just grown so grand,” she says.”Seeing how women, especially Black women, react to a handbag that’s luxurious…and that is also made with them in mind I think creates a special kind of emotional reaction for me [and] makes me feel like our world really needs. [It is] something that is missing in this luxury landscape and can be the next big thing.”