Kuwala is an online boutique offering ready to wear blended African and western apparel as well as accessories for both men and women.
The word Kuwala means ‘to shine’ in the Malawian language of Chichewa. Both owners are from Malawi and when we thinking of a name for their boutique, they quickly agreed that it had to be connected with where we are from. Naturally, wanting their customers ‘to shine’ with confidence; Kuwala was born.
I got the chance to catch up with owners Veronica and Freeda and find out a bit more about how they came together to start their brand:
Freeda: “I moved to Canada in 2012 from South Africa, where I grew up. I’m a chartered accountant but have always loved fashion and design. Our parents were family friends and I met Veronica briefly just before she left for Brazil. We reconnected when she returned and realized that we had the same desire to do our part in bringing African fashion into mainstream North American market.”
Veronica: “I’ve been in Canada since I was 5 years old and I grew up in Ottawa. For my undergraduate studies, I specialized in development studies focusing on the African continent. I moved to Toronto in 2012, and since the Malawian population in Canada is quite small, Freeda and I were bound to connect. After a trip to Malawi for my sister’s wedding, Freeda and I were conversing and the topic of doing business in Africa came up and from there Kuwala was born.”
Q: Since traditionally African clothing can be seen more as formal wear, have you found that people have been apprehensive about incorporating it into their everyday wear or more open to it now?
A: Even though African wear has traditionally been worn as formal wear, we are seeing a worldwide trend of people incorporating African fabrics and styles in their daily fashion choices. The problem for those not living in Africa has been accessibility and affordability of great quality clothing and accessories.
Q: What criteria do you use for finding designers to feature in your shop?
A: We base our selection of designers on a number of factors, but the two main ones are:
1) Craftsmanship: We want to promote the fact that there are great quality products coming out the African continent. We like designers that take the time to ensure that their pieces are flawless inside and out.
2) Creativity: We look out for designers with unique and original styles. We enjoy designers that add a bit of their personalities to signature styles and pieces.
Mabel Simpson is the creative director at mSimps, a Ghanaian handbag and accessories label. Just by looking at her handbags, you can tell that there is a lot of thought put into designing each piece. She started her business with an investment of $100USD but she has gone far because of her passion to provide beautiful great quality accessories. This past year alone, mSimps was named the best product of the year in the Handbag and Purse category at the Ghana Made Product Awards, as well as Accessory Brand of the Year at the 2013 Glitz Africa Fashion Week.
Q:What’s next for Kuwala?
A: We want to focus on growing our brand and expanding our product offering. We are looking forward to working with more young and passionate designers who are helping to re-brand the African continent with their African-inspired designs. We are just so excited to have come as far as we have and we want to thank our family, friends, designers and customers for their support.
Q: Can you share any words of wisdom and/or encouragement for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: The road to success is not a straight one, there will always be obstacles along the way but the trick is to not give up. There days where we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but we always look back at why we started Kuwala and this motivates us to keep pushing to achieve our dreams.
Kuwala Inc has been generous enough to offer a whopping 15% off when you enter promo code ‘SupportaSista’ at checkout during the month of May! Check them out at the links below and #SupportaSista