Q: When did you discover your love for designing? What made you want to become
a fashion designer and/or start Kayobi Clothing?
Kwabena: Kayobi has always been an idea I had when growing up, being
in a big family of seven boys, clothing was an important part of my life.
In high school, I inscribed my initials KOB (Kwabena Oppong Boateng)
on everything from folders, books, and shoes, and even got a silver dog
tag custom-made with that inscription. It was when my little brother who
had the same initials stole the dog tag from me that I realized I was onto
something special. Fast forward to Accra Ghana August 8, 2008 when all the years of ideas and planning finally led to the printing of our first design ‘piece in Africa’.
Q:What is the concept behind Kayobi Clothing?
Kwabena: Kayobi is inspired by the beauty of the African people and continent, it is
a visual celebration of all things positive about Africa, its past, present and future. At the centre of our philosophy is the aim to promote the Africa that is not seen on the television screens of the west and the Africa that most African’s or visitors of Africa constantly dream about when they long to go
back to the place of eternal sunshine.
Our aim is to create visual stories that extol the history of Africa that educates the world about our culture, food and traditions through the modern medium of clothing. We wanted it to be African yet chic, African yet modern, African yet accessible to all. Hence there are nods to western pop culture in our design aesthetic even though the topics are always Afrocentric.
Q: Who is your favourite African designer?
Kwabena: My favorite African designer is Christie Brown not just because she is a friend but also because she is innovative and brings a different perspective to the now ubiquitous African/Ankara print designs.
Kwabena: My favorite designer in general is Paul Smith just like him I am self-taught and also because he takes already classic designs and adds his own twist. Hence I have based certain aspects of my design aesthetic on his.
Q:What inspires your designs?
Kwabena: I am a child of the early 80s and my inspiration comes from my childhood in Africa. Most of my designs have messages that are inspired by the daily struggles and celebrations of people mainly in Africa and also from other cultures. I do allot of research on other designers, street art, African music album sleeve design from the hi – life and Fela Kuti (Afro beat) era and traditional African art.
My motivation stems from my strong desire to rebrand the image of Africa and the African Diaspora by portraying, positive and truthful images.
Q:Who are you designing for?
Kwabena: I am designing for Africans and lovers of Africa from every continent and race. I design things that I will personally wear and hope people will also appreciate. After doing this few a few years I have learnt not to design with a specific group in mind but to create designs that have a strong message and are visually appealing.
Q: What is a fashion designers best accessory?
Kwabena: I guess I cannot survive with out a pen and my moleskin notebook, iphone to capture inspiration on the go and my imac to make the designs a reality.
Q: What is your goal in terms of your fashion label. What do you ultimately want to achieve?
Kwabena: Ultimately I would like to have made a difference in the lives of my customers – I would hope my clothes made them think, laugh or even feel special. With regards to the company I want to create a lifestyle brand with accessories and home ware but most importantly a men’s cut and sew collection that brings a new slant to African men’s fashion. Our new collection called New World African continues to portray the positives of the continent and is essentially tees created for Africans
and lovers of Africa all over the world – check it out here http:// kayobi.bigcartel.com/category/2011-collection-new
Q: What is your view of the current African Fashion Industry?
Kwabena: I feel the current African fashion industry is vibrant and the world is taking note, one only has to look at the numerous blogs and magazine pages dedicated to the ‘tribal trend’. However with African fashion and cloth going pop, comes many copycat designers and an over saturation of the same
thing. African print is being used by a lot of people without any design consideration but simply because it is cool. When the Ankara bubble bursts only the talented designers will survive but for now lets celebrate Africa time in the limelight.
Q: What advice would you give anyone trying to pursue a career as a fashion designer?
Kwabena: I would say the most important thing to have is a passion for what you do, learn (buy books, use the internet) everything about the aspect of the fashion you are interested in, never stop chasing your dream, get yourself a mentor that is where you want to be and understand the business aspect
Q: Are items available for sale in stores in Africa and the Diaspora?