Lagos-based minimalist womenswear brand, Knanfe, led by Nanfe Jemimah Kefas-Oyeleke, put up an incredible showcase at the recently concluded GTCO Fashion Weekend. Even though this was the brand’s first outing at a Fashion Week event, they went above and beyond to give the audience a show they wouldn’t forget any time soon.
Tagged Bloom, the brand’s offering featured multicolour patterns, flowy tulle dresses, crisp power suits in form-fitted silhouettes, pant sets, maxi dresses, and mini dresses resulting in a perfect blend of soft and refined edginess.
To get inside Jemimah’s mind while creating this high-octane collection, we sat down for an exclusive interview to discuss at length her thought processes.
BNS: What is the inspiration behind your new collection?
Jemimah: It tells a story of making progress despite all odds and breaking boundaries. Most importantly, it is a celebration of my roots – the rich Plateau culture, landscape, and people – background of Nanfe Jemimah Kefas-Oyeleke. Bloom is a statement of rebirth, rising above all impossibilities and being a champion in the midst of it all.
BNS: Take us through the design process, concept, mood board and your creative starting point.
Jemimah: The mood board for Bloom takes you through my recent journey to Jos. I was called to showcase at the GTCO Fashion Weekend the day I left the village. It was a rainy morning filled with fog that you could barely see the road.
The collection as a whole was built on that trip.
Plateau is one of the most beautiful states in Nigeria, filled with beautiful flowers, its incredible landscape, and its people are very original. I worked on a mood board based on the flowers I picked by the road, the colours of the landscape, the land, the hut, and how simple its people are.
The collection consists of a simple, playful and structured silhouette, capturing the essence of who I am, my journey and going back to my roots. It reminded me of that person.
BNS: Could you select one or more pieces from this collection that hold a special meaning to you?
Jemimah: I love all the pieces. However, there is one that holds a special meaning for me. The organza/lace white shirt and the army green cuff pants with a high slit.
This outfit was inspired by Ije Anusim. I met her on the day I left Lagos for Jos at the airport. She made a huge impact on my life in a short period of time. The two-piece captures who she is. She’s professional yet playful. I will describe her as a coconut. She seems unapproachable from the outside, yet, when you open the coconut, it is soft, tender and beautiful inside. That’s what you see when the model turns to the back, the movement, and how fun that shirt looks.
BNS: What creative challenges and opportunities have you faced on your journey as a fashion designer in Nigeria, and how have these experiences shaped who you are as a designer as well as this new collection?
Jemimah: Being a model before becoming a designer has paved a way for me. I have met and worked with incredible people in the industry. I have access to a lot of people, people I can call when I’m stuck. Over the years the level of exposure I have gotten as a model and working with lots of designers, brands, and top photographers has helped me greatly. Also, I’m married to one of the best top photographers in Nigeria and in Africa. That has helped greatly.
However, Sometimes we are so confident in other aspects of our lives yet, not so confident in some. To be honest, I’m an overly critical person, which gets in the way of a lot of the decisions I make, what’s good tho is that I’m more self-aware now. I have learnt to be more confident in my decisions, especially in my work. I’m good!! I’m very good at what I do, I’m multitalented, and I’m getting it.
Another challenge that’s affecting a lot of fashion designers today, is the local artisans… oh!! If you can deal with a Nigerian tailor… I think that’s a superpower on its own.
BNS: This was Knanfe’s first outing at a Fashion Week event. Why was it important for you to showcase?
Jemimah: Hmmmmm… This! This is everything to me, this show is more to me than I can even put into words. It wasn’t an easy journey, I worked so hard to be here today… My evolution from being a model to a fashion designer and everything I had to go through for this to happen shows my strength and perseverance.
I did the campaign/walked the first GTCO Fashion Weekend alongside the supermodel Moyiwa Nicholas in 2016. I was one of the models on that same presentation stage.
You see this moment, it’s very big for me. I love how all the models who walked my show came out to cheer for me! They clapped so hard! They celebrated that moment with me, it was so precious to see!!!
BNS: What did you think the audience took home after your presentation at GTCO Fashion Weekend?
Jemimah: People heard the sound from my village, they experienced my culture that I’m so proud of… they got to see a girl who dared to dream despite her background, her tribe, or where she’s from. That alone is everything!!!
Can we get a look at your latest collection?
Jemimah: Sure! With all pleasure.