Plar Moreno, Adela and Helena show off some of her designs outside the shop in Tolox. / A. JIMÉNEZ

The village tobacconist who brings African colour to Tolox

When not running the shop, Pilar Moreno creates clothing for her Afrikaans brand, which her two teenage daughters model

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ

The tobacconist's shop in Tolox, the only one in the village, has been part of Pilar Moreno's life since she was a child. She inherited it from her father when she was eight years old, and started running it ten years later.

«I must have been one of the youngest tobacconists in Spain,» says Pilar, who is known in the village not only as the owner of the shop in the Plaza de los Poyos but also for having her own clothing brand called Afrikaans, for which her two daughters are the image.

In fact, her interest in fashion began because of her daughters, Adela and Helena.

«When they were little, a friend told me they could be child models. I took them to Malaga, and when they were six and seven they were featured in an haute couture magazine,» she told SUR.

From then on, the girls modelled for several well-known brands. «They have been in fashion shows in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, and have even been in the Italian Vogue magazine,» said Pilar.

Although they have been to many different places in Spain, they always come back to Tolox. «I like living here, the quality of life is good,» said Pilar, who has always kept her tobacconists open. «My partner and I take turns to be in the shop, and it is next to my house. It's very convenient,» she said.

Six years ago, after accompanying her daughters to different fashion events, she decided it would be a good time to start a new project: her own line of clothing.

«My partner is from Cameroon. His mother, the girls' grandmother, used to send us beautiful fabrics from there. They were very unusual, but they were African patterns and people were not used to seeing them here. One evening, when I was bored at home, I decided to use some of the material to create dresses in a more European style,» she explained.

That is how Afrikaans was born. At first, she designed clothing for teenagers. «You see plenty of clothes for children and adults, but not so much for that age. I started designing for my daughters, and then we began to incorporate other garments and accessories, such as bags and belts,» she said.

The name of the brand evokes its multicultural aspect. «There is a mixture of cultures in Africa, and my designs reflect that,» she added.

Urban collections

Her daughters' experience in modelling made them the perfect image for the brand, and Pilar's designs began to sell all over Spain. «They are casual, very urban collections. The fabric is 100 per cent cotton, combined with some Andalusian influences,» she said. In fact, one of the collections created by Pilar and her team was called 'Aires de Andalucía', featuring lace and crochet.

All the designs are made in Tolox, with the help of several professional seamstresses. «I have a catalogue, although we usually sell most at fashion shows because when you see the garments in person they are much more striking,» said Pilar, who also participates in charity events and has organised shows in Tolox to raise funds for children in need in Africa.

But that was not enough for someone with such an entrepreneurial spirit. As well as running the tobacconists and being a fashion designer, last December she opened a restaurant business in her village.

«Part of it is the restaurant, serving traditional dishes, and there is also an exhibition area where people can enjoy music shows and film screenings. We need more cultural and leisure facilities here,» she said. The restaurant is run by her son Mario, and it has become very popular with the numerous foreign residents of Tolox, especially at weekends.