Kisua Businessman Samuel Mensah sells Africa’s brightest fashion talents to the world (Part 4)

Kisua represents a new way of supporting designers and creating a strong network for the future.

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African fashion play

African fashion

(Matthew Kay)
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Written by Helen Jennings

Here is a question and answer session with the designers:

Tina Lobondi

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lobondi was born in Kinshasa, studied in Paris and launched her brand in London in 2010. Her line revolves around understated tailoring and wax prints.

Q: What is your aesthetic?

A: Quality designs with a feminine flare for the chic woman.

Q: Career highlights to date?

A: I have dressed Angelique Kidjo and Lianne La Havas and won an award for Best Female Designer at the Congolese Achievement Awards.

Q: Why did you agree to collaborate with Kisua?

A: Kisua feels like a family. It represents a new way of supporting designers and creating a strong network for the future.

Q: What was the creative process like?

A: It was the same as when I work on my own collections, except on a bigger scale. They consulted with me for each step so I didn’t feel like I was simply giving my name to a product.

Q: Describe the capsule collection.

A: It’s all about nude colours and elegant shapes. The collaboration has been great for my brand and we have received press coverage from it too.

African fashion is not just a trend, it's our footprint in the industry.

Poqua Poqu

Ghana

This Accra creative started her brand in 2011. Her ‘Afro-nautical’ Kisua range was inspired by the ocean that laps her city’s shores.

Q: What is your aesthetic?

A: Each piece is truly African while fusing elements from around the world to create functional fashion. I’m also a fan of Ghanaian prints, which all have their own name and story. One of my favourites is Obaapaa, which means ‘good woman’.

Q: What makes the Ghanaian fashion scene exciting?

A: It’s certainly authentic. The spotlight is on us now and we are bringing our best.

Q: Why did you agree to collaborate with Kisua?

A: I was excited to find a new home for my designs that shares my interest in contemporary, affordable pieces.

Q: What was the creative process like?

A: Working on designs with the Kisua team was enlightening. It took a lot of hard work, passion and dedication.

Q: Describe the capsule collection.

A: The silhouettes are timeless and the fabrics include lace, cotton, knit and geometric patterned prints in Egyptian blues and neutrals.

Q: What do you make of the Kisua business model?

A: I believe our biggest challenge in the African fashion industry is to manage a sustainable e-commerce platform. Kisua has filled that niche and made fashion accessible to all online.

Q: How do you feel about the current international interest in African fashion?

A: We’re in a good place, the buzz is building and great talents have had the chance to grow their businesses on a wider scale.

African fashion is the future.

Chechi Arinze

Nigeria

Lagosian Chechi Arinze studied architecture and apprenticed at Mai Atafo Inspired before launching her line in 2012. She specialises in form-flattering eveningwear and graphic shapes.

Q: What is your aesthetic?

A: I focus on strict lines and minimalism,but there is still a certain amount of freedom that shows through in the details, such as cut-outs or see-through panels. I also love using Akwete, which is a white woven fabric from Delta State.

Q: What makes Nigerian fashion exciting?

A: I think it's the fearlessness. Nigerians like to be different and know exactly what we want. Sometimes it can be over the top but we are not scared of standing out. The scene here is growing fast and creating careers that weren’t foreseeable five years ago.

Q: Why did you agree to collaborate with Kisua?

A: I liked the message behind Kisua and their creative point of view. I also wanted to connect to the international market.

Q: What was the creative process like?

A: I designed with the Kisua aesthetic in mind and then we came together to edit it to suit their clientele. I’m very happy with the results.

Q: Describe the capsule collection.

A: It has a modern colonial feel with structured yet airy shapes. There’s lots of black, grey and white highlighted with prints in yellow or pink.

African fashion is finally coming of age.

Prima Rouge

Nigeria

Tobi Martins studied agriculture but it was her passion for “heavenly African prints” that drove her to start her Lagos-based label in 2009. The Kisua collection features deconstructed wardrobe essentials.

Q: What is your aesthetic?

A: I combine plains and patterns to create architectural pieces. I love Ankara and tie and dye, which I mix with silk, brocade and chiffon to achieve a fresh look.

Q: Career highlights to date?

A: We’ve been well received around the world. I’ve taken calls from everywhere from Finland to Bermuda and showed at both Africa Fashion Week London and Washington DC Fashion Week.

Q: Why did you agree to collaborate with Kisua?

A: I saw it as a great platform giving recognition to small businesses. Kisua’s approach to online fashion retailing celebrates its designers.

Q: What was the creative process like?

A: It was a lot of fun. We did style collages of our best-selling pieces and used those as the basis of the collection. I enjoyed their hands-onapproach.

Q: Describe the capsule collection.

A: It is very versatile and captures an African essence with an up-to-date feel. There’s some nice detailing on the mandarin collar shirt and the oversized pocket skirt.

African fashion is innovative with cultural twists, created to challenge the norm.

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