Inspiration from Kibonen: Cameroon Fashion Designer
“I have always dreamt of this,” says Kibonen, a well recognized Cameroonian fashion designer. “I remember last year I was telling one of my friends how much I wanted to do a fashion week in South Africa and today I find myself doing it. It’s really overwhelming to be honest. Mainly because doing what I am doing and the way I am doing it is very challenging. I really believe if you want something you have to put it out there and it comes to you.”
Kibonen’s Journey To The Big Stage
Kibonen shares her experience and how everything led her show in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa. It wasn't easy. Speaking about the challenges she says, “Preparing for the show was really challenging because it was hard to get the necessary finance. I did an online fundraiser campaign which helped me raise $4000 which helped me get here." Good luck and a lot of support was her mantra to success. "I am really thankful to all of my friends and family who supported me every step of the way. I also thank AFI, especially Dr. Precious and Elana for believing in me. Elena especially believed in me and believed in what I was doing. She gave me a chance to be here. As staffs of AFI they are the most supportive people I have ever met," she adds.
Moments Before The Show
Kibonen passionately talks about how she approached this show differently, “This show is the best show I have ever done. I could not believe that it’s just few minutes from the show and I am relaxed. Every other show I am running helter-skelter trying to figure out what’s going on. This is where I want to be and this is where I want to stay. From here I can only go further up. ”
The Concept Behind The Line
Kibonen’s line has deep-rooted connection with traditional Cameroonian designs. She shares the inspirations and work that went into creating the collection saying, “What I do for my designs is I create the concepts for the line and then I get the garments made. I also get them embroidered. This is a traditional embroidery from my home town. This is why I became a fashion designer. I have never thought of doing designing but then I figured out a way to modernize my traditional regalia. If you know about Cameroon or have noticed the garments worn by Cameroonian athletes in the Olympics, then you know about the traditional regalia. Now, I ensured embroidery had traditional symbols. These symbols have meanings. I picked out a symbol called the Gong which is a musical instrument to heralding the entry of something or someone great. This is one symbol that I used in all of my garments. I was also helped by one of my very good friends who’s painter in England. She painted the way I wanted and I used that design to create my fabrics. I wanted her create a design that looked like traditional painting. So you would see the original embroidery work and the fusion of the painted design printed on organic cotton. You would also see a heavy usage of cotton twill and silk.”
Naming The Collection
Kibonen adds, “ The collection signifies the journey of an Afro fashionista to the city of New York, where everything is a miracle. So the name of the collection is Milabros because this whole journey has been miraculous for me.”
Reaction Of The Crowd
Kibonen broke into tears after her collection was well received by the audience. She recalls what went through her mind when she exclaims,"You know when you are expecting something and what happens is even better. The audience completely relates showing their support by clapping and cheering. I remember watching the show other day and we kept asking why everyone didn’t clap at the end. Then I get to my show and everyone is clapping and cheering, it was really emotional and beautiful.”
Kibonen (photo) says in one of her interviews:
One of my longstanding and passionate dreams was to do a fashion week in South Africa. After surpassing innumerable challenges, here I stand in the verge of realizing that dream. The road that led to this day was not free from hurdles especially because I wanted to do things on my own terms. If the entire experience has taught me anything is that if you really want something you just have to put it out there and more often than not it will come true.
How My Dream Came True:
One of the major hurdles was to gather the necessary funds to organize such a show. What really helped me see through this challenge was an online fundraiser campaign which helped me raise about $4000. Apart from the financial aspect, this show wouldn’t have been possible without the continuous support I received from my family and friends. Two people who played a pivotal role in my success today are Dr. Precious and Elana from AFI (African Fashion International). Elana especially was very supportive and truly believed in what I was doing. She was the one who gave me the opportunity to showcase my work at such an event. Elana and Dr. Precious are the most supportive people I have ever met and I really appreciate the help I got from them both. I have no doubt in my mind that this show is the best show I have ever done in my entire life. There has also been a great change in the way I approached this show compared to the ones I have done before. Mainly because this time around I am calm and relaxed before the beginning of the show, as opposed to being panicked. This is a clear indication that this truly is my stage and from here I can only go up.
How I Created My Fashion Line
I start by creating the concept for the entire line and then got them specially made. One of the key features of my line is the embroidery. The style of embroidery is native to my hometown in Cameroon. This was one of the main reasons I became a fashion designer to showcase Cameroon’s traditional regalia in a modern light. If you know about Cameroon’s tradition designs or have seen the clothes our athletes wear in the Olympics then you will notice that I have inculcated the very same insignias in my line. Each of these symbols carries a special meaning. I picked out a symbol called "the Gong" which is used to signify a traditional Cameroonian musical instrument. This instrument is traditionally played when ushering in a great occasion or a person. I have extensively used this symbol in all the garments of my line. Now what I did was I asked one of my very good friends, Siri, who is a London-based artist to create a special painting. I used the design of the painting and printed it on organic cotton to create the fabric of my line. Now my entire line is kind of like the fusion between the painted design and the traditional embroidery.
How I came Up With The Name Of My Collection
My collection signifies the journey of an Afro fashionista to the city of New York, which is short of a miracle. This is why I aptly named my collection Milagros which in Spanish means miracle.
The overall response I got from the crowd was overwhelming. I became emotional when everybody in the audience started clapping. The experience of it all was truly beautiful.