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Getting to know Lulu Kitololo!

We are so excited to be working with Lulu Kitololo on new textile designs for our 100% Made in Kenya collection, and she's also the creative force behind our fabulous greeting cards, which we'll be including in every Mother's Day shirt or dress order! *(Details below!)* Now, without further ado, we're so pleased to introduce you to Lulu Kitololo in her own words...

Your work has such an organic focus--where does your inspiration come from?

Nature is a huge inspiration for my work and, in particular, flora from my home continent, Africa. There’s so much diversity, intricacy and intrigue – I don’t think I’ll ever cease to be inspired by it.

In a lot of your designs you reference East African flora and fauna, how does your Kenyan heritage play into your work?

My work has been an opportunity for me to dig deeper into my heritage – as a Kenyan but also, more broadly as an African. My designs are an excuse for me to learn more and then share that knowledge with a wider audience, in an accessible way. My designs are also an opportunity for me to celebrate the richness of my heritage and to hopefully inspire pride and confidence in all who share it.

One thing we especially love about your illustrations is the richness of color. How does this boldness reflect your personality?

I’m an eternal optimist! I’m almost always smiling and trying to spread joy to all who I encounter. I guess that’s why I love vibrant colours. Their use was also therapeutic for me, during the many years I lived in the northern hemisphere, desperately missing the tropical climate of home!

When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator, and how did you get started? 

I still have a hard time identifying as an illustrator! I trained as a communications designer, with a focus on advertising art direction. I didn’t enjoy working in advertising and, after almost quitting the creative industry altogether, I started working as a graphic designer.

A few years in, my designs started taking a more hand-drawn approach. I love putting pen to paper – it’s such a satisfying thing! People started responding to this aesthetic in my design work and it naturally led to requests for illustration work.

What was your first big break?

Interesting question – I’ve actually never thought about what my big breaks have been! There’s something about the term “big break” that makes it feel like some external forces are independently at play when, I truly believe we have the agency to make things happen for ourselves – albeit with a lot of support along the way! 

Big breakthrough moments in my career: quitting employment in 2009, to establish my independent practice (there have been challenges but, there’s been no turning back!); appearing on Lion’s Den (Kenya’s version of Shark Tank) in 2018 – an incredibly validating experience; being part of the She Trades Commonwealth programme which was an invaluable experience for learning, capacity building and the opportunity to participate in NY NOW. 

What do you think about seeing your illustrations being worn in such a functional, everyday way?  Did you ever imagine this work in textile form? 

I’m incredibly thrilled to see my work on fabric and for it to be such an intimate part of the lives of those who wear it. I’ve always wanted to explore my work on textiles and I’m excited to be doing this with a brand whose ethos and spirit is so aligned with mine.

WHAT WE'RE READING // The Year of Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

This novel is a masterwork of storytelling, weaving together the stories of young migrants from India who find themselves colliding against each other, against their dreams and against reality in cold, grey, unyielding Britain. Wrenching, urgent and unflinching, Sunjeev Sahota plunges deep into the thoughts and daily struggles of these young people whose dreams drive them as they do all they can to survive.

 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // BLINKY BILL

Everyone's Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales

Kenya's very own Blinky Bill is one of our favorite artists. We hope you'll love this album, particularly the linked song, Atenshan, which will have you instantly dancing (consciously or otherwise!)

 

 

Fun fact: we were lucky enough to have Blinky Bill swing by our NY Shop a couple of years ago while he was on tour in the US.  Here he is on the right, rocking our men's shirt like nobody's business!

 

 

 

 

INSTA CORNER // WHO WE'RE FOLLOWING: @a.a.k.s

We've always been huge fans of Akuosa Afriyie-Kumi's bags, all handmade in Ghana, but we FLIPPED OUT when we saw her new woven pendant lighting collection, which is part of the Weaving for Change initiative, created in collaboration with @Made51_unhcr & @refugees to aid work for Malian refugee artisans living in Burkina Faso. Check her out!

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