Tribes of Kin delivers imaginative and modern interpretations of Kente
By Francine Holmes
Tribes of Kin is a fashion design house and a fellow Etsy creative. I had the pleasure to interview owner and designer Valemia Atabong about her journey from inception of Tribes of Kin as well as her creative process. Valemia incorporates vibrant patterns and colors of African fabrics and mostly Ghanaian Kente into western designs to create a vivid cultural visual that can’t help but to grab one’s attention.
FLF: Tell us a bit about Valemia Atabong, who she is and where did Tribes of Kin come from?
VA: I am originally from Cameroon, I immigrated to the U.S at age 12. The love for sewing developed from observing my grandmother on her Singer sewing machine. I was discouraged from learning the craft in place of more practical and conventional studies. Despite that, I would get on her sewing machine when she wasn’t around, I secretly taught myself how to sew.
I did follow the conventional route and obtained a degree in psychology, but I eventually decided to live an authentic life and that meant going after my passion that’s when Tribes Of Kin was born. The name originated out of a desire to form a community of like minded people.
FLF: What do you enjoy most about being a fashion designer and have you noticed a change in your work ethic to accommodate for the demands of this creative process?
VA: My favorite part about being a fashion designer is seeing my designs go from a thought to being brought to life and transformed. Fashion, for me started out as a hobby but it has definitely developed into a full time job now. When it comes to my work ethic, my motto is to be my own cheerleader, which means forcing myself to work even on those days when I would like nothing more than to just sleep in. At the moment I am a one woman show, which involves all aspects of running a business, the administrative and the creative aspects. I have hopes of collaborating and expanding with other artists in the future.
Kente cloth is my favorite print and I dream of a world covered in Kente. I see fashion as an expression of who I am, where I am from and in what I believe -Valemia Atabong
FLF:Your line appears to have strong African influences, describe the overall aesthetic of your brand as well as your targeted audience, if you do have one?
VA:I mostly use the Ghanaian Kente Fabric, It’s the fabric of kings and nobility; It is my favorite print and the most popular of African prints. My overall aesthetic is traditional west African mixed with modern American street fashion. I see fashion as an expression of who I am, where I am from and in what I believe. I am inspired by my world travels and combining my African heritage with a western twist. My targeted audience is anyone who’s not afraid to experiment with their everyday look, I’m especially happy to help give a place for black women who want to connect with their heritage. Through my online store, my designs are available to everyone worldwide who’s looking to express themselves through African culture.
FLF:When designing what do you hope your audience sees or gets from it, at a glance ?
VA: I truly hope that my audience sees a modern style with a cultural connection; whether its a pair of shorts a bathing suit or something more experimental to provide a unique way to express that connection.
FLF: Is your goal to stay current, on top of current fashion trends or to be the trendsetter?
VA: I consider myself a trendsetter because I originated the KenteKini (Kente bikini) trend, I was the first designer to start making bikinis out of kente cloth which has since been copied by others designers.
FLF:What are your plans for the future and what’s next for your Brand?
VA:My plan for the future is to have my designs made in Cameroon and to potentially host other Cameroonian crafters and artists on my website, to bridge the gap and to provide them with a global platform as well to showcase and sell their art.
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