Before I kick off this amazing and inspirational interview please permit me to brag a little. I must confess that I have the most talented and hardworking women that I am so happy to call friends. Meet my good friend of nearly a decade, Andrea (I call her Aku, which means wealth in my Igbo language. She is most definitely wealthy in knowledge, talent, inspiration etc.) She debuted her fashion brand (KAHKTI) first collection in April here in New York City, and of course, I had to get the first media dibs and feature her on LME before she blows up and out of my reach. This interview did not only inspire and motivate me but it taught me that my source of inspiration is limitless and all I have to do is tap into it. I hope by reading this interview you too will be forced to tap into your limitless source of inspiration.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to be a designer.
The synonyms that best describe me will be spontaneous, spiritual, and eccentric. The things that inspire me the most are Family, Heritage, individuality and Sisterhood. Growing up in Nigeria, I was the quiet kid full of imagination; I call that the parental gifts. My father owned a retail store in Enugu, Nigeria in the eighties through the nineties. My mother was and still is a fashionista. I get tickled when one calls me a designer because designing was never in my career list. I had other things in mind. Designing was more of a hobby. My favorite thing to do was thrifting, upcycle and style it how I see fit. Prior to my father owning a retail store, he sold second hand items which is more popularly known today as thrifting so you see where the love for thrifting came about. My mother also mixed and matched her expensive clothing with thrifted items.
Coupled with my parents, my Igbo last name was also an inspiration. My last name is NNAMANI meaning ‘father knows the land’. I don’t consider myself a father but I definitely do thrive to know and study my culture and that stretches beyond my Igbo culture. I am especially fascinated by the African, Asian and indigenous cultures all around the world. I figure what could possibly be the best way to finally put my background in anthropology to use?
Last but not the least, I migrated to the United States in 2000. I was in my late teens. It was a time in my life that I thought I had discovered my SELF like all teenagers tend to think hahaha. Coming into this country exposed me to a plethora of knowledge and different cultures. I found myself forming my own individuality unconsciously which later became very conscious. This was as a result of being constantly told I wasn’t African or African enough by both Americans and surprisingly Africans. I was very offended by those words. It’s similar to being told “you do not look African” it begs to question “how do Africans really look like?” These are the consequences of a single story. Showing a person as one thing and in my case an African woman specifically a Nigerian woman can only be a certain way. This inspired me to be a designer and to use the medium to promote individuality and to change the singular narrative of The African woman.
Tell us more about your brand and past collections.
My brand is KAHKTI and it derives its name from the plant, cacti. The cactus plant, even with its thorns, is seen as a symbol of unconditional love in its perennial quality and its tested ability to withstand seasonal changes. The KAHKTI brand aims to move in similar spirit by pushing the love for self and uniqueness of womanhood. The KAHKTI vision is to facilitate conversation between the African and Asian Aesthetic, drawing on my background in Anthropology. My most recent collection named KATALOGUE, I was inspired by the subjects of the renowned Studio photographers Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe. Both artists, from Mali, sought to illustrate how the African individual communicated their identity as an African and influence of the colonizers.
Where do you get inspirations for your designs?
Inspirations are limitless. It could be from a flower I come across, the colors of a butterfly, the rhythm of a dye against the woven threads of a fabric, the eye catching print of a woman hustling to sell her vegetables at the market, the minimalistic white kaftan and babouche worn by my father’s favorite fruit seller at the fresh fruit market, the dark brown soil at home [Enugu], and it goes on. These are real experiences. The inspiration is limitless.
Have you faced any challenges since launching your brand? If yes, how did you handle them?
Yes I have. Ironically this is one of them. Talking about my brand to people is a challenge. I have never been one to talk about myself. It is a new territory for me. This is one of the reasons it took me ages to venture into this business. Looking at the bigger picture of this being an inspiration to someone or this might push someone to undertake something that he or she have always had in mind. Secondly, I mentioned earlier that I am spontaneous. This is a blessing and can also be a hindrance to accomplishing a task especially when I am designing a collection. However, spontaneity works to my advantage when I am styling a look book. It really is a “win win” situation.
What should we expect from KAHKTI in the future?
The future is limitless. Expect nothing short of growth.
See below, some images of her debut collection and go here to find out how you can shop till you drop 🙂