For our first #SMWLagosCARES feature blog we’re traveling from Chicago to the Democratic Republic of Congo with fashion designer and social entrepreneur Kahindo Mateene of Modahnik!
Although Mateene’s Modahnik brand is recognized the world over (through her participation in prestigious fashion incubator programs, Mercedes-Benz Africa Fashion Week and Project Runway Season 12) she has kept home close to her heart! Recently, the acclaimed designer partnered with Democratic Republic of Congo-based non-profit MamAfrica to create sustainable fashions that also provide local women in the town of Bukavu with fair wages, access to skills, healing therapy and more. To raise funds to get the partnership started Mateene took to the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter for the seed money. Her campaign was more than successful, engaging supporters via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, ultimately grossing over 40% more than its initial goal!
We had a chat with Kahindo about her brand of social enterprise, sustainability, and their impacts in the Congo.
SMW Lagos: You started your fashion line, Modahnik, some years ago. Tell us a bit about how the company started, what inspires you and how you got to where you are today with the brand.
KM: I saw a need for creating tailored dresses for curvy women that really accentuated a woman’s form and wanted to combine my African heritage into clothing that could be worn from day to night. Having lived and traveled in Africa, Europe and America, I combine these different stylistic elements, bringing a unique point of view to my design aesthetic. As a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I pull inspiration from the Avant-Garde spirit of the Congolese art and culture.
SMW Lagos: You have been based in Chicago for a number of years but have always maintained a global and ethical perspective, what has underscored those commitments for you?
KM: The world is so small and you must have a global mindset in order to keep up with the times. It’s important for me to have a world-wide view especially because I am from Congo and have now lived half my life in the States. My culture and my country are always at the forefront of my mind when I design, because I am trying to blend these two different cultures in my work.
SMW Lagos: How did your background inform your decision to undertake the partnership with MamAfrica?
KM: I am from a town called Goma, so when I found out about MamAfrica, a non-profit based in the neighboring town from Goma, it was a “no-brainer” for me to collaborate with them because they are making a difference in women’s lives who have been victims of the Congo war.
SMW Lagos: How did the partnership come about?
KM: I was actually introduced to MamAfrica through Nadia Dawisha of ListenGirlfriends, who had done a piece on MamAfrica, and interviewed me for her blog.
SMW Lagos: Can you explain exactly how the process works?
KH: MamAfrica is a fair-trade nonprofit organization that fosters self-empowerment and sustainability while providing healing arts programs and economic opportunity.
I provide MamAfrica with fabric left over from creating my print-focused designs, which they then repurpose and sew into clutches. It is a collaborative effort because they have the creative freedom of putting together the fabric pieces in the final clutch design. For this they are a paid a fair living wage.
SMW Lagos: How do you understand the work done between Modahnik & Mamafrica to be meaningful in the simplest terms?
KM: Ethical consumerism and empowerment are at the core of this project on top of bringing awareness to Congo as a location that can manufacture quality products.
SMW Lagos: Does your project with MamAfrica offer the women involved with other resources aside from access to funds?
KM: MamAfrica provides the women with education in nutrition, literacy and financial responsibility, healing arts programs such as trauma healing, meditation and yoga. The women are then trained to sew, embroider and tailor which provides life-long tools which fosters empowerment, independence and self-sufficiency.
SMW Lagos: Ultimately what has been the most fulfilling aspect of this project for you?
KM: Being able to give back to my fellow countrywomen by providing sustainable jobs and empowering the women feels so good, and it’s just my small way of making a difference in Congo.
SMW Lagos: Tell us about your recent Kickstarter campaign and how you leveraged social media to build its success?
KM: Kickstarter was just a great way to really spread the word about the Congolese women and MamAfrica because it uses the power of social media to support a worthy cause through a creative platform by leveraging social media. We were able to tell our story through images and a video and spread the word on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. The backers were not just donating money, but actually received a gift with purchase, primarily being the clutches. This way they became stakeholders and were invested to see the project succeed, which it did after a second try.
Thank you again to Kahindo Mateene and her team for taking time to talk with us about this amazing work! To learn more about MamAfrica visit www.mamafricadesigns.com!
Join us next week for the next installment of the #SMWLagosCARES blog!
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