New designers pop up everyday and quite a few of them are undoubtedly talented. We’ve had our eyes on quite a few up and coming brands and we will be highlighting some of the major on-the rise- brands you need to know in the Discover series.
I was keen to challenge the notion that African fashion is defined only by wax fabric
Why did you start your line ?
It’s quite interesting because I am actually not a Designer by profession. I am in fact a Certified Public Accountant (CPA-US), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) and Certified Government Audit Professional (CGAP) with four years Big 4 public accounting experience.
I also hold a Master of Arts degree in International Development with a major in Health and Development. I worked as a development professional with the African Development Bank in Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Uganda and Kenya for close to seventeen years before leaving to follow my passion of creating a home grown retail brand.
While I was still employed, I regarded myself as a “corporate rebel”. For instance, I wore dreadlocs for sometime. I also loved wearing vibrant prints and colorways which were considered “loud” in a corporate context. I was a little frustrated that there were very few outlets where I could readily find colorful corporate clothes.
On the many occasions I got together with my girlfriends one of the topics of discussion would be where to find quality tailored clothing that was representative of our African heritage but could still pass the “board room” test. It was following one of these discussions that I decided to create the change I wanted to see.
I decided to start a retail brand that could offer classic timeless pieces in vibrant prints representing my African heritage. This essentially is how the idea of CocoLili came about. In creating my own brand, I was keen to challenge the notion that African fashion is defined only by wax fabric. I chose to develop a brand that would fit in perfectly in any board room or in the high street boutiques of New York, London or Paris – a brand that would transcend culture, ethnicity and race but always remain African at heart.
Who is your favourite celebrity or influencer to work with?
Gosh, there are quite a number of people I admire but have not yet had a chance to work with them. I have however had the opportunity to work with Diana Opoti who has since become not only a mentor but also a friend. She is one of Kenya’s most powerful social influencers, BOF500 2017 alumni and she has recently opened Designing Africa Collective, a concept store in Nairobi, carrying African brands.
Who is the CocoLili woman?
Well, we are now producing for men as well as kids so perhaps it is more apt to say the CocoLili customer. Our customer is culturally diverse, stylish and sophisticated. They would be classified as emerging middle class and are highly educated, well travelled and speak multiple languages. They are high income earning professionals or entrepreneurs with high level of disposable income. They lead a very cosmopolitan lifestyle, are always on the go and are efficient multi-taskers.
Our customer is culturally diverse, stylish and sophisticated
How would you describe your label?
I would describe CocoLili as an Afro chic ready to wear brand offering timeless classic silhouettes in a variety of colorways and prints. CocoLili offers high quality, tailored clothing and prides itself as a locally home grown brand with 100% of its production “made in Kenya”. The brands design philosophy focuses on classic and timeless staples. What sets CocoLili apart is our prints, which are based on African themes and motifs. These prints are customized for the brand and printed on various fabrics of high quality such as chiffon, silk, rayon, cotton and polyester. The vibrant, colorful and bold prints are symbolic of our African heritage and add an element of ethnic pride.
What do you believe should be the foundation of every woman’s wardrobe?
We have a Basic collection which we believe provides the essential pieces central to any woman’s corporate wardrobe. The collection consists of a shell top, pencil skirt, cigarette pants, blazer and a shift dress.
Where do you get style inspiration?
As I already mentioned, our brand philosophy focuses on classic timeless pieces which means that our goal is not to create new styles per se but rather to produce prints and colourways which are unique to the brand and are symbolic of our African heritage and culture.
Photographer: Thandiwe Muriu
Models: Anita Barbara, Juliet Kiruhi, Randy Gowon & Mauryne Theo.
Are you a fan of CocoLili ? If you’d like to be featured or there is a brand you think we should feature email style [at] bellanaija dot com. We’d love to hear from you!
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This interview was condensed for clarity.