Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would have a passion for fashion or that I would become a fashion designer. But, here I am, in my first year of business as creative director and head designer of Kaela Kay.
I have always ‘loved’ clothes and shopping; but that didn’t necessarily translate into ‘loving’ fashion. Growing up I had no desire to be a fashion designer or work in the fashion industry. I actually wanted to hold a high paying corporate job so that I could BUY my fashion and be a part of it as a consumer.
All of that changed about four years ago.
I am from Ghana, West Africa and over the last four years I have grown to identify more with my African roots (comes with age I guess); particularly, I fell in love with African prints and textiles and started wearing African print custom made clothing more and more. And I had fallen so in love with looking different and wearing custom made clothes that the thought of buying department store clothes didn’t excite me. I expressed my frustration to my mom, and, being the wonderful supporter that she is, she bought me my first sewing machine for my birthday (God bless her heart).
So late at night after my corporate 9-5 job, I would go home and teach myself something new on the machine until I was at the point where I could create a whole outfit. The first dress I made I used a pattern that I bought from Fabricland, and it took me over a month! I started sewing for some friends, they posted the pictures on Facebook, and soon, I was being contacted for custom sewing services. I provided custom sewing services for about three years (all the while still holding my corporate 9-5 job), and then I went on maternity leave in 2011 after having my beautiful baby girl Mikaela, and everything changed.
By this point, I was a fully immersed in the world of fashion and had dreams of owning my own label. While on maternity leave, I decided that it would be the perfect time to create my own fashion line. After much research, much confusion, much frustration, much distress, and a little bit of doubt, the journey to becoming a fashion designer became clearer to me. With personal savings from the custom sewing work and the support of my husband and family, I registered my fashion line Kaela Kay in January-2012. Kaela Kay is named in part after my baby Mikaela, knowing that had she not entered my life when she did, I probably wouldn’t have had that intense drive that comes with having children and wanting to do all you can for them and their future.
I also decided to focus on working with African prints and textiles. This decision was important to me because my passion for fashion started with African prints and textiles, and I want to show the beautiful fabrics that come from Africa. Also, I want people to recognize that Africa is a modern place and it has evolved drastically in fashion. The premise of Kaela Kay is to use Ankara/Ntoma African fabrics to create modern, sexy, vibrant, edgy and sophisticated female clothing. Though the clothes also use other fabrics/prints, every garment made will have a piece of Ankara/Ntoma incorporated in it.
To my surprise, Kaela Kay was a huge hit and has been extremely well received. I put out my first collection in June-2012 with limited styles and limited quantities and sold them on my tumblr site (www.kaelakaycollections.tumblr.com) and at my home studio. Over just a few short months, I have done several fashion shows, have been featured on several blogs and have been invited to provide motivational speeches.
The first few months of business have been stressful and uncertain. I have had to make much sacrifice, work on very little sleep, prioritize to no end, learn the ins and outs of running a business AND all the while still maintaining my custom sewing services AND my corporate 9-5 job.
My road to becoming a fashion designer has been surreal. With no formal fashion/sewing training; no significant financial allotment; and no formal connections in the fashion industry, Kaela Kay has strived on pure passion and determination.
Where the creativity evolved from, I don’t know. Where Kaela Kay will be in 50 years, I can’t confirm. But, the goal is to brand Kaela Kay into a fashion industry name and to put a piece of Kaela Kay in the closets of Kaela Kay women everywhere.