We finally got to nail down Michelle Adepoju an old friend and now founder and designer of KÍLÉNTÁR, a brand reinventing the African Fashion space with a modern approach. After so long it was truly lovely to catch up and hear all about Michelle’s amazing travels across Africa to source the perfect materials and ways of production for her brand. As we spoke on the phone, Michelle was waiting to head to her next destination where she would be looking for new materials.
It was great to find out more about KÍLÉNTÁR and the amazing process behind production. Michelle works very closely with the women on her team, through every stage, ensuring the women feel empowered as they create and make, which portrayed through her products. The ethos of the brand is really all about making women feel powerful from the ladies in the production process through to the customers wearing the garments.
How did you start KÍLÉNTÁR?
I’ve always wanted to have something of my own, the original plan was for KÍLÉNTÁR to be an online marketplace to showcase African brands and their products. The meaning of KÍLÉNTÁR in Yoruba is “What are you selling” so that was the initial idea for the brand. As I left the UK and came to Nigeria to work on my business, I had so many ideas I wanted to showcase, which led me to create my own pieces and come up with a collection, then it was just down to having the confidence to share it on Instagram. It was very much a situation where I had completed the collection but was sitting on it for a while, I just need the confidence to share it. I eventually came across a quote that pushed me to share, then launched the site a week later, from there I kept driving forward.
How does sustainability play a role in the design and production process?
I am very conscious of my team and the environment they work in; I work very closely with everyone in the team, every line of the production process, from the people, hand dying fabric to weaving the materials, I have a relationship with all of them. I work very closely with women too; I ensure they are working in a safe environment, and they are happy, which is so important to me.
The other part is that I ensure our packaging is sustainable and our pieces are made to order so that reduces material waste and dead stock lying around.
What problems have you come across as a designer and how have you solved these problems?
Every day as an entrepreneur you will run into problems, there’s always something. The main thing is to be prepared and figure out how to solve it. A problem I was facing was the unknown of covid, we launched just before Covid, so I wasn’t sure if we would survive. I went back to the drawing board and came up with a creative strategy and kept pushing and posting in a creative way that was showing the product.
Since creating KÍLÉNTÁR what has been your proudest moment?
I always feel a sense of fulfillment when I see my team when I see the women I work with feeling empowered. These are people who are working to gain knowledge and provide for their families, knowing they are working in a good environment where they can learn and grow, is what’s important to me. When women feel empowered when making the garments it translates into our customers feeling empowered and strong when wearing our pieces.
Can you tell us about your new bikini that has just dropped?
It’s called the ILEKE Bikini, it represents a celebration of women and the expression of freedom (OMINIRA) by showcasing two dancing women in their African head tie and wrapper facing back-to-back, printed over the fabric. I have also incorporated beads on the shoulders and hip which represent waist beads, which is a tradition for my culture that means wealth. It all ties in with lockdown and feeling locked in and now we are getting that freedom. The bikini also shows how far women have come today.
What plans do you have for the future?
I want to showcase our journey more and share what each piece really means and educate our audience, I am traveling a lot now and documenting sourcing materials and working with lots of amazing women, and empowering them. I can’t wait to share more with you all.