Kiki is a Nigerian designer of Igbo extraction. A TV model from the age of 6, she began modelling professionally when she was discovered by the FORD Modelling agency at the age of 19 and worked for top designers including Chanel and Gucci during the course of her modelling career. Educated in the US, France and Nigeria, Kiki is as diverse as they come in fashion and tastes.
She began designing her twin sister’s clothes at the age of 11, and carried on designing her own clothes which drew attention from friends and strangers alike, on every continent she visited. Kiki left her role at Harvard as the Neurosurgery Education Program Coordinator, to devote her energy to producing well-crafted exclusive creations which she describes as her passion. She founded her design house barely three years ago, and has in that short space of time, grown in leaps and bounds in the national and international community. KiKiKamanu, the brand is based in Lagos, Nigeria. According to Kiki, “It was the pursuit of my interest and passion that was the genesis of KikiKamanu. I view entrepreneurship as a vehicle for the realisation of one’s vision, dreams and passion. I love what I do. It is as simple as that. It has been said that if you do what you love you will never have to “work” any day of your life. That rings true for me. I am self-motivated to continuously challenge myself to outdo my last success, so it is not external but an intrinsic desire to create and to improve. My benchmarks are not the successes of others but how far I can push myself creatively.”
The KikiKamanu brand distinctive chic has been featured on several runways including Sleek, London Fashion Week and the ARISE Magazine Fashion Week. In addition, she and/or her designs have appeared in major American, European, Nigerian and Turkish media including CNN International and Russian Tatler. She is a former editor of elan Magazine as well as a costumier who collaborates with several leading production companies to interpret their visions onto the stage.
From her website, the KikiKamanu designs are inspired by the fascinating life of Ziryab, a Moor from 8th century Baghdad and Andalusia. Truly ahead of his time, Ziryab is credited with the introduction of the open toed sandal, the change in wardrobe we enjoy per season, the modern day stringed instrument, the lute and a string of other firsts. Kiki Kamanu is constantly motivated by Ziryab’s spirit of originality, creativity and vision as she designs her pieces. The KikiKamanu label offers the Arm Kandy pieces which is a unique handbag line and ranges from overnight bags to clutches to the ‘man bag’. The Omakáa & Z.bird are the ready-to-wear women’s lines and the E.K.Z. brand is the menswear line which includes bespoke pieces, casual tees, leather belts, wallets and slip off sandals.
Kiki Kamanu has produced several successful collections to date: BreakOut!, the Limited First Collection 2008, Flirty Freedom, the Spring / Summer 2009 collection, Un-Conformed Expressions, the Spring / Summer 2010 collection; EklectiKiki, the Autumn / Winter 2011 collection, In-Voluntary Addiction, the Spring / Summer 2012 Collection, and the Elegance Meets Attitude, the Fall/Winter 2012 Collection.
Kiki Kamanu has worked with a range of clients including Stephanie Okereke, Omawumi Megbele, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, Genevieve, TW Magazine, Boston Globe, MADE, élan, ‘Face of Sleek’, Reeds and the Society for Performing Arts of Nigeria (SPAN), among a string of others. This year Kiki Kamanu was selected as one of five finalists for BiD Network’s Women in Business Challenge that focuses on women entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Kiki keeps motivated by the fact that her clients do not look like anyone else as she keeps delivering her unique, bold and sassy creations. She is challenged by the absence of basic infrastructure such as electricity and the lack of suitable fabric which she still sources outside Nigeria. But has she let this stop her? No Sireee. Indeed, Kiki hopes to become an internationally recognised fashion brand with a world-class production and manufacturing base in West Africa.
On a personal note, Kiki had the most unconventional wedding to Noble Ekajeh in Istanbul, Turkey in 2010. It was filled with creations from her line, pomp and pageantry.
I conclude with a quote from Kiki Kamanu; “The best place to be for fashion now is Africa! The world is embracing African inspired prints!” The time for Africa is now!!!
Learnt a thing or two? I have; “My benchmarks are not the successes of others.” Don’t forget to share with us as we journey together.