Just two issues ago we featured Kibonen Nfi designs on our Cover and on our designer spotlight describing her as a hidden treasure in African design talent. Well that should now be past-tensed. She is a treasure to behold. For two days in a row the past week, the talented and beautiful Lupita Nyong’o – who is promoting her new movie Queen of Katwe – has been seen wearing Nfi’s label KibonenNY and the world loved it! She wore the label on the hit US talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show and on the popular ABC’s Good Morning America. We celebrate both Lupita and Kibonen in equal measure for shining bright for motherland.
Now meet the designer!
Our amazing Fashion Cover girl in Issue 37 ( June/July Edition) worked with the amazing young talent –Cameroonian designer Kibonen Nfi. Although not the first time we have featured KNY, that edition ignited an avalanche of adoration for the talented young designer.
Inspired by traditional Cameroonian garments, West African fabric and New York’s vibrant fashion scene, Kibonen delved into the fashion world with the never-before seen ingenious idea of producing modern interpretations of one of the most delicate and intricate handwoven traditional garments from Cameroon’s western highlands region, the toghu, under her label Kibonen NY.
Although the pursuit of a fashion career is routinely frowned upon in Cameroon, where Kibonen was born, and its success deemed unfathomable, she pursued her dream and in 2013 was nominated for Africa Fashion International’s Emerging Designer award. She has successfully showcased her talents at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in South Africa, she’s been profiled by the BBC, GQ South Africa, New African Woman Magazine and Forbes Africa and her work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. Kibonen NY was recently selected as one of 12 designers by the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative in partnership with #eyesontalent fashion talent scouting agency, adding her to some of the best African designers in its network.
To further fine-tune her fashion skills, Kibonen recently graduated with a Degree in Fashion Design from the highly-acclaimed Art Institute of New York City where she learned how to narrow down her research process and better interpret design inspiration. “I learned how to give life to my inspirations, put my ideas down on paper, interact with the right audience and market my products. I learned how to take fashion to the next level,” she explains.
Kibonen NY was one of 200 designers from around the world featured in the 2015 September issue of Vogue Italia as part of the Vogue Talents 2015 Fashion Designers edit. She has also been featured on the popular Humans of New York, a blog and Facebook post on which her story amassed an astonishing near-250,000 comments and almost 6,000 shares. She was such an overnight sensation, with more than 100,000 new social media followers and thousands of orders, that her website eventually crashed. To top it all, after Hollywood actress Blake Lively, America’s sweetheart, stumbled upon Kibonen’s Humans of New York post she looked her up to discover the KNY lookbook we have featured, and singled out the jumpsuit on page ??, writing on her instagram page: “Just read the story of @kibonen_ny – the designer of this rad jumpsuit – on @humansofny. She’s amazing and has a story to tell in her work and in her life. I love learning about hidden treasures!”
Following this huge recognition and endorsement, Kibonen has since been able to raise money through crowd funding and other investing partners, and together they have put together a fairtrade garment manufacturing plant, Made In Camer, in the city of Bamenda, in northwest Cameroon. At the time of going to press, Kibonen was in Cameroon to oversee the implementation of the plant, which has offered over 30 local tailors an employment opportunity to produce the highest quality garments. In addition to exclusively producing Kibonen NY, the plant will also be available for other African design houses in need of a garment manufacturing facility.
“The goal for Made in Camer is to collaborate with the biggest fashion houses in need of an ethical sourcing throughout the world in order to continuously provide jobs for the workers, as well as improve their lives, empower them and alleviate poverty, while making the best fashion labels right here in Africa for the global audience,” Kibonen says.
She is an embodiment of the adage: Where there is a will there is a way! Here at NAW, we say soar on!