Kemi Kalikawe

Region: Dar es Dalaam, Tanzania

Kemi Kalikawe, winner of the 2017 ‘Swahili Fashion Week Innovative Fashion Designer of the Year’ is the founder of Naledi Fashion. The brand focuses on afro-urban, ready-to-wear fashion for professional and stylish women. Her many feminine designs range from day to night wear, all with a modern sophisticated aesthetic.

Kemi has had a lifelong passion for fashion design and is thrilled to now be starting her own line. Her love for being surrounded by artistic people who are also involved in the business aspect of the creative world has taught her that if you put in the work, people do notice and appreciate it. Our new collection is a great example of hard work made smarter and is the future of doing business as a creative person in Tanzania.

Kemi strongly believes in the power of collaboration, especially having recently worked with Words and Pictures (WaPi), a British Council art initiative. Through this she facilitated the first Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA) Fashion Incubator Boot camp. Kemi has been featured on CNN Africa Start-up and served as a panel speaker for Ndovu Spotlight, a social campaign highlighting and celebrating confident young Tanzanian professionals with the potential to receive international recognition. In 2015, Kemi was chosen for the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) to represent Tanzania in the fashion industry. Naledi will soon be launching a flagship store that will open up to artists and accessory designers as a space to show their work as well. Naledi Fashion is proudly rooted in the future of the Tanzanian fashion industry.


Belt and Road Collection

Bukoba, “Rocky Town”, in Tanzania will charm you with the endearing warmth of its people. The fabric that brings together these majestic pieces is Barkcloth or Bark Cloth, a type of cloth made from the Mutuba tree in Africa. It is of pre-historic roots, predating weaving and the specialty of the Haya Chiefdoms, signifying social status. Barkcloth also called “The Cloth of Kings”, a renewable sustainable cloth and can be cut with no need to finish edges.

This quality led me to the idea of doing fabric cutouts as the dragon cutouts I have seen during the Chinese New Year. Seeing the technique of cutout fabric from the Zanzibar women making pillows brought to mind an idea of adding embroidery around the raw edges to further compliment the organic style of the fabric. When looking at the Chinese Dragon embroidered on silk, I used this idea as a way introducing more texture and depth, using all these components to build layers, and three-dimension.

The pieces are a merging of the Tanzania cultural, the powerful and noble ’Cloth of Kings’ with the Chinese dragons that’s also represent a powerful and benevolent symbol in Chinese culture. The colors I have chosen are inspired by the forest tones of brown and green of the Bukoba plains and the blues of seas, rivers, lakes, where the legendary Dragons live. The embroidery details I’m working with are inspired by the Emperors robes with dragon motif.