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September 3, 2003
by Michelle C.Crowe

Now that summer is officially over it's also time to welcome a new fashion find to downtown Campbell.

Diana's Fashions, owned by Diana Axtell, specializes in African-print and African-inspired clothing. The store opened August 18 and held its grand opening over Labor Day weekend, featuring refreshments and a chance to meet the owner and discuss custom-clothing options. She creates many of the designs herself, although she sells other lines as well.

Born in Sierra Leone in West Africa, Axtell met her husband, a Peace Corps volunteer, there as well. (Their romantic meeting was even a prizewinner in a local Valentine competition four years ago.)

After getting married and moving to America, she found that more than one thing in her life was different.

"People aren't that big in Africa, but we wear clothes that are big and able to accommodate people of many sizes. When I came here I was only 120 lbs., now I'm much larger," Axtell says. "I found myself frustrated and crying because I wasn't able to find nice clothes in my size at Macy's and other department stores."

Diana Axtell began designing clothing for herself and other large women back in 1999. Soon she was traveling to Thailand to have her designs turned into garments that she'd then bring back to the United States and sell out of her San Jose home.

"Now I have a lot of people in and out of my home, so I thought maybe I'd better open a shop," Axtell says. "The only hard part is getting people to know where I'm at."

She chose an ideal location for drawing new customers—her 1500-square-foot space at 411 E. Campbell Ave. is right next to another African retailer, Voila L'Afrique.

"Now I buy the material from either the U.S. or Africa, then have things made in Thailand. Soon I will also be selling African-print fabrics, and I plan to create hats and offer hair braiding. My ultimate goal is to be able to have the designs made here in my shop instead of abroad," Axtell says. "In another month we hope to offer custom-made clothing, as well as specialized sewing services. A woman can select from the fabrics, see a designer who will take her measurements, and we'll make it—probably in about two days."

The shop is open Monday from 11 to 3; Tuesday through Friday from 10 to 6; Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 10 to 3. Diana's Fashions can be reached at 408. 370.0871.