Style

Afropreneurs: Meet the Home Décor Company Fusing Brooklyn Cool with Afro-Chic

Okayafrica catches up with Ugandan-American interior stylist, Nasozi Kakembo, on her home décor company, xNasozi.

While other children grew up playing video games, Ugandan-American interior stylist Nasozi Kakembo designed blueprints. After a stint in the human rights and social justice world, Kakembo harkened back to that childhood creativity to launch her home décor company, xNasozi.


Originally launched under the name “Origins Style by Nasozi,” Kakembo’s venture in home décor has come a long way. “It all started with six really badly photographed pillows,” she laughs. Poor images or not, a gradual uptick in interest on Etsy helped the Brooklyn-based designer realize she was on to something. As orders trickled in, Kakembo began to wonder what would happen if she worked full-time on the company. The answer came soon enough when the challenges of juggling her young son’s elementary school schedule with a full-time position increased. In April 2013, Kakembo decided to devote all of her energy to growing the brand, re-named the company xNasozi, and shifted from Etsy to an independent e-commerce store.

Nasozi Kakembo. Photo by Alena Banks; courtesy of xNasozi.

Now 4 years old, xNasozi bridges Brooklyn cool with Afro-chic. With a wide variety of minimalist prints and unique textiles sourced from artisan networks across Africa, Kakembo also stands out from the recent wave of African-inspired design with her innovative approaches to mud cloth and indigo. Her e-commerce store is a design addict’s paradise full of everything from a wax print yoga bag to mud cloth Christmas stockings. An indigo butterfly chair, a bestseller among Kakembo’s wholesale clients, is a particular standout.

Based in New York City, Kakembo sources textiles from the wide network of West African businesses in Harlem and Brooklyn. Some of the fair-trade woven products, such as baskets and sisal bags, are imported from Uganda with the help of her supportive family. Kakembo has recently started to design mud-cloth-based textiles with her own original hand-painted work. In addition to a mud-cloth version of her signature butterfly chair, xNasozi also sells an industrial, modern mud-cloth-upholstered bench.

The more unusual takes on modern African design, like the bohemian denim and wax print aprons she sells as part of her kitchen collection, are inspired by Kakembo’s neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “There’s a very playful juxtaposition in the environment of Bed-Stuy,” she says. “There’s nothing that fits into a box; everything is whimsical and people express themselves fully through their style and interests.”

Photo courtesy of xNasozi.

A quick glance at the xNasozi Instagram shows that the poor photos of the past have been replaced with sleek images of modern, colorful interiors. Kakembo credits these ideas to learning on the job. “xNasozi is more-or-less a one-woman show, so as my brand grew, I had to explore other skills in order to grow my sales,” she says.

Brands and blogs from Travel and Leisure to West Elm's blog, Front + Main, have taken note of Kakembo’s new-found expertise. In addition to the xNasozi home décor products, she also writes and photographs for a variety of clients including crowd-favorite Apartment Therapy. “In the independent e-commerce world, there’s a lot of competition, so you have to have strong visuals with high-quality photographs of your products as well as lifestyle photos. I taught myself photography by picking the brains of my photographer friends.”

In addition to her hats of designer, writer and photographer, Kakembo has recently added philanthropist. Drawing from her experiences in humanitarian assistance, Kakembo supports Suubi Nursery and Primary School in her father’s native Uganda by donating a portion of Nasozi sales. As a small business, xNasozi’s contributions are small, but Kakembo hopes to scale the impact over the next few years. With a growing network of retailers in over 10 states, xNasozi might just meet its goal and live up to the meaning of Kakembo’s own name—“something to look up in praise of.”

Style
Image courtesy of Daily Paper

Wekafore Releases Fela Kuti Inspired Collab With Daily Paper

The one-of-a-kind 'The Spirit Don't Die' capsule collection celebrates African heritage and a hope for a brighter future.

Amsterdam-based African streetwear brand Daily Paper has joined Nigerian fashion brand Wekafore in creating a unique capsule collection of note. The 'The Spirit Don't Die' collection is inspired by fashion and Nigerian activism icon Fela Kuti, but celebrates the bountiful beauty, potential, and heritage of Africans.

Nigerian designer Wekaforé Maniu Jibril, owner, and designer of the Wekafore brand has been hot since his 2013 debut. The brand has gone on to become a great success within the realm of West African fashion. Wekaforé represents a newer, more fearless generation of African designers and their latest collaborative collection tells the tale.

Daily Paper x Wekaforé 'The Spirit Don't Die' collectionImage courtesy of Daily Paper


The two popular brands share a rich history and intention to further African fashion's reputation in the world, as well as as a shared desire for raw necessity, organic growth, and authentic community engagement, development and, support. The fashion brands are making it known that street and casual wear are more than we once thought - fashion can be inclusive and fun. The stars truly aligned to bring us this partnership guided by similar core values and the hunger to celebrate Africa and her diasporas through fashion.

The Fela Kuti-inspired collection is filled with distinctive and bold pieces, honoring Africa's past while paving the way towards the future. Wekafore is known for their clear integration of West Africa's 1970's cultural golden age, and this limited collection speaks to those themes, making it a no-brainer to dedicate the line to the legendary King of Afrobeat, whose style never disappointed. It's clear to see how Kuti's influence inspired the exciting and vibrant creative renaissance seen in the collection. On using Kuti as his muse, Wekaforé says, "Like Fela, the pieces are very punk, very psychedelic, and very African at the same time. And that represents me 100%. And I think being able to speak that way through a platform like Daily Paper is a testament to contemporary African consciousness."


Image courtesy of Daily Paper

Daily Paper x Wekafore 'The Spirit Don't Die' Collection

Check out more of Daily Paper x Wekafore's collection 'The Spirit Don't Die' collection here.

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