Wharton business student, entrepreneur aims to shift global perspective of luxury

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Wharton School of Business student and entrepreneur Wilglory Tanjong has reasons to dream big.

After being featured on Beyoncé's website and Vogue Magazine, Tanjong says it's important to always follow your passion and keep faith.

"Faith is so incredibly important to me, it drives everything that I do," said Wilglory Tanjong, owner of Anima Iris.

Anima Iris is an elevated high fashion brand for the modern woman created in Dakar, Senegal.

Tanjong, 24, began her college career studying African Development at Princeton University, where she actively led social groups, giving students a voice surrounding local initiatives.

After graduating, Tanjong took a job in operational management. But she realized it was not making her happy.

"You don't really know what's next, your a little uncertain, but in doing so I just felt like what I'm doing currently is not for me and I need to figure out what is for me," said Tanjong.

Taking a six-month leave from work, Tanjong saw an article that said 'Africa is the youngest continent on earth.'

Feeling lost in her path, Tanjong saw this trip to Ghana as an opportunity for a new direction.

"When I was in Senegal that's when I was introduced to this artisanal community and I just started designing," said Tanjong. "I've always been a very creative person and when I started creating things I was just amazed that you could draw something and choose different materials and an artisan could bring it to life."

This led Tanjong to think that this could turn into a great business idea. After drawing and creating, a few purses later Anima Iris was born.

In the need for money, Tanjong brought 50 of those handmade bags back to the states where people quickly took notice.

Quitting her job two days after the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anima Iris took off.

"When people think luxury they usually think about brands that are handmade items that come from European countries," said Tanjong. "But what people don't also recognize is that African creations are inherently luxuries."

Tanjong says with Anima Iris she's focused on really trying to bring Africa into that forefront.

"I'm really trying to change the global understanding of what luxury is, what luxury can be, and what it should be," said Tanjong. "And really inserting African into that dialogue."

Tanjong currently lives in Philly with her Princeton roommate Philomina Kane, who also is an entrepreneur of KIN Apparel.

As their businesses continue to grow, Tanjong took another leap of faith with four days left to apply in pursuit of her MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Tanjong says her message to young people is, "It's so important to do what you love. You have one life to live, so you have to pursue your passion."
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