Noblivity Spotlights Kahindo Mateene
Designer Name: Kahindo Mateene
How did you get started?
I received my Fashion Design degree from the Illinois Institute of Art- Chicago in 2004. I wanted to learn as much about the Fashion Industry, so I interned with a local Chicago Designer, Scarlet Designs; I worked at H&M to gain retail experience and I also worked at a showroom in the Apparel Center, learning the wholesale side of the business by representing different clothing lines at tradeshows such as MAGIC in Vegas. I also gained experience as a Sales and Marketing Manager for a fair trade clothing line. Once I had all this experience, I then decided to launch my own ethical contemporary womenswear line and debuted Modahnik at the 2009 Fashion Focus Chicago. I was born and raised in Africa, and have lived in the States since 1995, so Modahnik is a true result of the mixture and juxtaposition of my African Heritage and the modern Westernized life that I currently live in.
What inspires your designs?
I get inspiration from my African Heritage but as well as from everything that surrounds me, the sounds and smells of a metropolitan city, the architecture of Chicago ,the white sandy beaches in Zanzibar and Cape Town and all types of Music. Summer is my favorite season, so the joie de vivre in the air is another inspiration.
I knew I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I also had a love for fashion. I think two things really drove me to pursue this career. The first was my frustration in finding clothes that fit my curvy figure while shopping in boutiques and department stores. The second was my passion and cultural heritage. I also remember first coming to the States and wearing my African gear from head to toe, and I was proud to do so because that was my me, that’s how I grew up and those were the clothes that I had when I came to college from Africa. The one thing that bothered me though, were the looks I got, the attention I received when I wore my traditional clothes. Ultimately I figured I should design clothes that showcased my ethnicity and used the bright colorful African prints but in a modern, contemporary and sexy style, so that was my third inspiration in creating Modahnik.
How would you describe your design style, design signature and who is your targeted customer?
I design for a modern contemporary woman who is independent and bold enough to wear my designs. It’s not for the shy, as the bold colors and vibrant African prints that are the signature of Modahnik, requires a woman who is a risk taker and not afraid to stand out. Modahnik designs are feminine but designed to flatter a woman’s body and curves, they are sexy and most of all modern pieces with a funky twist.
What designers inspire you?
Mathew Williamson, Diane Von Fusrtenburg and Dries Van Noten
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
As a young designer I definitely had my fears and doubts about starting my clothing line especially in these economic times. Money was another challenge.
How did you overcome them?
I figured that there will never be a perfect time when everything lines up and the economic climate is ideal. I just had to believe in myself and my abilities and also start small. My SS 2011 collection has 9 pieces. I also had the support of family and friends who believed in me. I work an 8 to 5 job in order to support my business.
What has been your greatest moment on your journey so far?
2010 has been a great year. I finished 2 collections, 1 early this year for Fall 2010 and my 2nd collection for Spring Summer 2011. Also after fashion shows it always feels amazing when my designs receive positive feedback from real life women, I am always really humbled and proud.
What has been the biggest change in your designs so far?
I think my Spring Summer collection is more wearable than my 1st collection. I really listened to my customer and designed more pieces that I could see the Modahnik woman wearing in the Summer, and could be worn to a date, a summer party or just a night out with the girls.
If money were no object what would you do right now?
I would quit my day job and put 110% into my business. Hire a Sales Rep, attend several trade shows and also hire a PR Company.
What are the best and worst things about being a designer?
Being able to design wearable clothes without compromising creativity is an every day challenge. The best thing is seeing a design come to life from the inception then seeing it worn by a real woman.
Describe your typical day?
Attend my 8-5, during lunch make calls and return emails. Nights and weekends keep me busy with designing, patternmaking, sewing samples, sourcing fabrics and notions as well as visiting stores to sell my line.
What is your philosophy of life?
Hard work dedication and passion as well as a dollop of patience can make your dreams a reality. Doing good for others and giving back is good karma. Everything happens for a reason.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, I have learned from everything that has happened, good and bad, and I think these lessons have made me a strong designer but also a strong entrepreneur. I am excited and looking forward to a bright future.
When will you know you have made it?
When I see my designs worn by women in cities all across the globe. When I am featured on WWD and in a major publication such as Vogue. A CFDA nomination would be great. When Michelle Obama wears one of my dresses.