Hey lovelies. First of all I’m so sorry for the silence. Got really busy with school work and all. However, now we’re on vac for a week and at least I get some time to breathe.
I’ve wanted to put up this blog post for ages now. It all started a few weeks ago when Camille Davis contacted me on behalf of the very talented Liberian fashion designer Kimma Wreh. She told me she had stumbled across my blog through Twitter and really enjoyed reading it and liked my style. She then went on to ask if I could do a feature of Kimma Wreh whose beautiful Queen of The Brides Collection will be featured during New York Fashion Week this month on the 12th. You have no idea how excited I was. I didn’t hesitate to accept, all the while thinking that she was the one doing me a favour.
I then got into contact with Kimma whose words really inspired me and I know will be a great inspiration to many upcoming African fashion designers. I got a chance to ask her quite a number of questions which she had very interesting answers to.
Here’s how our interview went.
1. When did you first realise you wanted to work in the fashion industry?My fashion experience has been an evolution. While attending Howard University, I was motivated to launch my fashion brand and showcase stylish African fashions with American appeal. Before leaving Liberia, I designed a mini collection of Ankara garments that I would occasionally wear to school. The compliments and positive vibe from my classmates was overwhelming. I started TeKay Designs as an online portal for African attire that were difficult to find in stores. Today we see African tops, skirts, pants and dresses everywhere. Over the years, TeKay Designs has transformed into a full lifecycle brand encompassing semi-formal, formal, and bridal designs ranging in price points from moderate to high end.2. Was it difficult setting yourself up and generally getting started?My fashion experience has been a journey of self financing and family support. It has been a long enduring journey and I push myself every day to keep going. Running a business has its benefits and drawbacks like personal sacrifices on me and my family, long days with minimal sleep, etc. But the rewards are great if you put in the hard work. It has taken years to get to where my brand is today and I’m grateful for all the people who supported me along the way. It has been a team effort and I’m thankful for my Creative team that spreads 2 continents (Africa and America). It is been a collective effort to keep TeKay Designs operating and producing cutting edge fashion for the world to enjoy.3. I really wanted to study Fashion Design and even have a few personal dresses and skirts I’ve designed and tailored by myself. However, my parents said that I should get a ‘serious’ degree first and then after maybe I can focus on fashion. What would be your advice to African parents who discourage their children from studying fashion ?I had similar experience however my parents always taught me the spirit of excellence and hard work. Growing up in Liberia, my parents (like many others) wanted me to be a lawyer, doctor or architect. When I attended Howard University, I majored in Computer Information Systems because this was considered a guarantee of employment due to shortage of programmers and systems analysts in the U.S. at the time. If the child has a talent, I encourage all parents to nurture that talent whether it’s fashion, arts or science. The fashion industry has many facets including fashion design, fashion merchandising, fashion retail, public relations and marketing, fashion journalism, etc. The sky is the limit. I believe that getting an education is key and having a college degree provides the basis for a better quality of life.4. Your Queen of Brides collection is beautiful..what was your inspiration for this collection?Thank you. The Queen Of The Brides collection is my high end, couture bridal collection where each gown is named after a Queen, royalty or women of significant social status from various countries around the world. Each gown is a luxurious masterpiece accessorized with statement headpiece, and custom jewelry. The collection is inspired by history, culture, historical architecture, cultural jewelry, color and symbols. The Queen Of The Brides collection has gowns named after queens in North Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia), West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria), East Africa (Kenya), South Africa, and Europe (England, Spain, Italy). I study each person that the gown is named for by reading books, researching the culture and traditions of their time, visiting museums, etc. The result is a gown that incorporates cultural elements representative from a distinct time however the gown is still stylish to be worn in modern times.5. It is such an honour to have an African woman designer out there doing it big in the fashion industry. What would be your advice to other African women designers who have great work but are finding it difficult to set themselves up in the industry?
Here’s my advice to other African designers. Enroll in the best fashion school, learn your trade, intern and study with fashion pioneers and icons, get a mentor, and be the best you can be. Get involved in your local community and give back to those less fortunate. Develop a business plan and execute to it. Learn from your mistakes and seek to constantly improve. Understand your clients and how to connect with them. Study the market and market yourself. Marketing and public relations are areas that I see a lot of fashion designers struggling with. Designers should invest in high end photographs of their designs, have an e-commerce website, increase their social media presence. Write articles and submit press releases, attend workshops and fashion events. Hire a publicist if you can afford it. You can have the best designs but the world needs to know that.