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Meet the designer inspired by her Nigerian heritage, making made-to-order pieces for everyone: Kim Dave

29th May 2024

Interview: Charlotte Harney

Tell me about yourself and your brand?

My name is Priscillia, my brand is called Kim Dave. I started in 2019 and the vision is to create slow fashion that is inspired by my Nigerian heritage. Through each collection I try to talk about a theme or a life experience and name every piece in the collection one name, which is the name of my tribe, so that way I’m bringing other people's lives into my own upbringing and culture. That's what the ready-to-wear collections are about.

I also have a Youtube channel where I teach people to make their own clothes, also called Kim Dave. On there I share pattern tutorials, sewing tutorials and the journey of me starting my brand, running it, my own experiences and mistakes I’ve made, so anyone who wants to follow
a similar path can see what I’m going through and learn from my own journey as well.

What's your background? Is it in fashion or did you start with an alternative career path?

My background is in fashion, I studied film and arts for 9 months and went onto study a BA in fashion for 2 years. I then worked with Judy Wu for 3 months, she's a womenswear designer. She does really intricate, very high end womenswear fashion. I then worked for a menswear
brand and it was interesting to work within womenswear and menswear because you still have the same foundation in both industries but it’s how it's executed and how it's used to tell stories and how different techniques are molded to fit designers preferences.

We touched upon it already but where do you get your inspiration for your designs from?

A huge part of it is definitely my culture, in terms of the colours and fabrics I tend to gravitate towards. For the silhouette I just love volume, I love powerful sleeves, being able to change the shape of a garment by just pulling a string or an elastic. I kind of like having fluidity; that you can add to your garments through different details like a drawstring or a waist band or a belt. I started developing that silhouette when I was in fashion school and it just really stuck, so it's become part of my design identity at this point. Whenever I do a collection, there are certain things that you expect from a collection that I create, like the sleeves, or the fabrics. I like to marry those two elements, then tell a story through each collection I create. Every now and then there might be something like a fruit that I ate when I grew up that I’d then really distill into print and use it to create tops and pants. But a lot of it is telling my life story through fabric and silhouette.

Being an independent brand do you feel a responsibility to be sustainable? It’s such a big, growing industry now, how does that impact you?

I think it's a clever thing to incorporate from the beginning because not only are you being more aware when you’re designing, choosing fabric, deciding how many units to produce or how to produce pieces, it's also a way to keep your finances and spend at a reasonable level. Starting out you're not going to be getting 100-200 pieces a week, so there's an opportunity to procude less or do made to order, which ticks the sustainability box. So you're able to satisfy that eco-conscious side of you as a creative, and at the same time be mindful of what you’re spending as a business. Being aware of both sides and making the decision that makes sense in that regard is really important. Thankfully I’ve been able to do that with a few of the collections I've created. You also learn along the way. You learn what works, you watch and see how people are shopping, you listen to the changes in trends and industry and watch the news and take that information on and feed it into your decision making process as a business and as a creative. Being flexible and adaptable is really important.

It's really interesting how you can fit it to suit you as well. I think a lot of people are daunted by the thought of being sustainable. But it's interesting to hear how it can benefit you in some ways such as financially. How do you feel social media plays a part in that as an independent brand?

I honestly don’t think that Kim Dave would have grown and be on the trajectory it is on now without Youtube and Instagram. Those are my two biggest platforms. I was able to grow a community of people before I launched the brand, so I already had an audience in a sense,
waiting for my products. I was very lucky in that way that I already had a customer there. So I could show them ‘hey this is what I’ve done, this is the product, this is the story’ and show them where they can shop it from. It gave me a very beautiful platform to showcase the ideas and the concepts that I had without having to rent a space, do a pop up, or go to these big online websites for me to sell my pieces. It was how I was able to tailor what I was creating to reach the audience I had in mind. Social media has come in really handy in that regard.

Do you have a specific person in mind when you’re designing?

Its changed. In the beginning I thought it was one type of customer and then I made the piece, people bought the pieces and then I realised, ‘oh ok so this is my customer!’. It’s also interesting to learn as people buy and post pictures in the pieces, I see people wearing them that I never would have imagined or it being styled in a certain way I wouldn't have expected. So it's changed over the years, but I’ve noticed there are definitely certain values that have stayed consistent compared to the physical appearance changing. They’re usually people who care
about craftsmanship, how the pieces are made. They care about other cultures outside of themselves. I thought my customer would be someone that looks like me but that’s not my demographic, which is surprising. They are also more conscious shoppers. They ask questions
like where is the material from, what kind of fiber is in it, how do I maintain the fabric, if it breaks can you repair it for me... they’re just way more conscious. When I’m designing I know I can’t just use any material, because my customer will notice and be asking me why. So it’s developed and changed but those values stay consistent even though the physical appearance has shifted
with time.

That must be quite exciting and refreshing actually to see that development and what you originally thought would be your customer change and develop.

Yeah absolutely, its women and men, older and younger. I thought it would be a woman in her late 20s who likes style and fashion - maybe a manager of a shop or something but it’s actually a huge range of people who share those common values. Conscious shoppers, people who
care about cultures outside of their own and good craftsmanship. Those 3 values.

Do you find that’s changed your designer process? Knowing you have a broader audience or have you stuck with your initial concepts?

There are certain elements I have kept. When it comes to specific silhouettes there are some I like to keep and incorporate into my designs but the biggest thing I think it affects is when I'm choosing materials. I'm quite specific about my fabrics. I know if I use 100% polyester, that piece is not going to sell well because my customer will look at it and frown. I’m able to also decide if I want to do a made-to-order range and give the customer that experience of being able to customise, for example, the length of the dress or sleeve etc. I’ve also started using the waste that comes from the garments to make accessories like scrunchies or a headband, people love to see that as well. My customer has definitely influenced how I create and how I design but I still have the integral core of specific shapes and the stories i want to tell.

Do you have any fashion icons or designers that you take inspiration from?

Well there are a few. There are some Nigerian and African designers. Then there are some more global and international. For Nigerian designers there is a brand called Andrea Iyamah. I love how they make the most elegant pieces with the most beautiful prints in a way that it
doesn't look too much. I love Jacquemus. How they play around with fabric and add clever details. The way they just twist the fabric it changes the whole shape of the garment. It’s so clever.

Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

I would like to continue to create pieces but not at the expense of the quality of the fabric or the customer experience. It's really easy to create more pieces that are more affordable and then you sell more units and you make more money, but in a couple of years I don't think that would fulfill me as a business person, creative or human being. It's getting to the point where I’m able to create really good quality pieces, just a few key, strong designs that the brand is recognised for and tell stories though those pieces and do that for a really long time! 

Whether that isphysical products or digital products we’ll see how we are able to evolve and adapt as the years go on. I don't like to put numbers to things but staying profitable would be great because then I can hire a space and people who are more experienced and better at things such as marketing to help manage that side of the business. That's the goal and hope for the next 5-7 years.

What advice would you give to other new designers? How to balance everything as you mentioned, creating, socials, marketing etc as you start to grow?

I think for me, I went to fashion school and got the foundation of how to make a sketchbook and design a look, but that business side was really lacking. If you don't understand how to price your product, how your expenses can run your business to the ground or marketing and the importance of branding; we kind of ignore that in fashion and think your amazing product works on its own but it's not magic. You have to invest in yourself. If you do a course or partner with someone who is really good at business you increase your chances of staying in the business for longer. As creatives we just want to create. I just want to create. But you need to know how to sell it. We’re always learning and there's always new changes but don’t ignore the business side of fashion.

If you could design an outfit for anyone, who would it be?

Wow. I would say Zendaya. But there's also these two sisters, Zoe and Hayley, they’re singersand I just love how soulful their music is, you can tell they care about what they put out. So them, or Zendaya. Or all three of them, you never know!

You can shop the new Kim Dave collection, Elo (meaning shine, inspired by Loss; a loved one, opportunity or yourself but the new you that you discover when you go through loss. When you come out the otherside you realise how strong and resilient you are). Manufactured in London, 6 looks and 2 accessories and everything is made to order in the UK.

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