My name is Emefa Kuadey. I was born and raised in England. When I was about sixteen, I went to live in Ghana (my motherland) for two years. I went to an American International School, hoping to graduate and attend an American university. I ended up in neighboring Canada, however, at Carleton University in Ottawa. I’ve been in Canada for three years now, and plan on staying until after I graduate next year.
Q. Where does the name israella | KOBLA | come from?
A. Israella is my middle name and Kobla is my brother’s Ghanaian name, given to a boy born on a Tuesday. My whole company is dedicated to him, and for me it’s a way to stay forever bonded with him.
Q. When and how did you become interested in fashion design?
A. I had always wanted to get into fashion design from quite a young age, but when it came time to decide the path of my future I decided against pursuing fashion design, because the competitiveness of the industry was a real turn off. However, after I lost my brother earlier in the year, I started learning how to sew/design as a way of keeping myself occupied and distracted from my grief. It was through this that I truly found my passion for designing. At times I would not be able to sleep for more than four hours because my mind would be buzzing with so many new ideas.
Q. What is your educational background? How did you master your design skills?
A. I’m actually three years into getting a degree in Civil Engineering at Carleton University. I did get accepted in Richard Robinson School of Design over the summer, but I decided to postpone my enrollment until after I have finished my current degree. As for my design skills, my aunty in Ghana taught me the basics when I went to visit in February. She also gave me a great book that I used to teach myself over the summer. It has been a very interesting and experimental process.
Q. Who are some of your favorite designers and style icons?
A. To be honest, I don’t have many favorite designers. I really appreciate labels such as Balmain that have very feminine pieces but still bring forth a bit of an edge. That’s exactly what israella |KOBLA| is all about! I love seeing what people like Rihanna and Jessie J are wearing, they know how to follow trends without looking like they are trying too hard.
Q. What is your aesthetic as a designer? Does it differ from your personal style? How so?
A. I would say the clothes I make are feminine and classy but at the same time edgy. You won’t ever see anything too girly coming from me. This is exactly my style! I originally intended to design just for myself, so I made everything to my taste. I think it’s important as a designer to kind of get inside the head of your customer. I am my customer, so it’s perfect!
Q. What inspires you? How does your culture/heritage play into your designs?
A. I am inspired by everything really. Sometimes, I even have dreams of myself wearing a certain style, and when I wake up I start sketching and making a pattern for it. My first collection “Lost in the |WILDERNESS|” has a very African feel to it, because all of the fabrics used for it where bought in Ghana. However, I am not limiting myself to only Ankara materials in my designs. My next collection is all about using bright, bold colors and lightweight fabrics.
Q. Discuss some challenges you have faced in designing your line? What are some milestones you have reached?
A. As a new designer, I have learnt something new from every garment that I have made. I’ve learnt to take my time when constructing a garment. There have been a few occasions where I have completely finished a dress and had to take it apart because I matched up the pieces incorrectly or made a slight error that could have been avoided. One major problem I came across when designing this collection, was having enough fabric to make everything that I wanted. I returned to England before completing my collection and so I had to work with the materials that I had bought, as I couldn’t just go out and buy more of the same print. Another problem was having the ability to translate my ideas into patterns. It’s one thing having an idea, and another thing bringing that idea to life the way you envisioned it. As my skills have developed over the past few months, I have been finding it easier to do this.
Q. Where do you hope to see israella | KOBLA | in the next five years?
A. I would love to have a boutique set up in Ghana, and be getting ready to open a new one in another African country. I feel like Africa’s time is coming and there is no better time to get a business up and running.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring African fashion designers?
A. Stay true to yourself and don’t feel the need to compete with any other designer. Fashion is a way of expressing yourself through clothes, and everybody has their own take on it!