Tag Archives: Kenema

Kenema – African-inspired unisex streetwear collection debut

Interlude is Kenema’s debut unisex collection of streetwear, inspired by a love of 90s hip-hop and RnB and a celebration of the cultural foundations rooted by the music of the decade. The collection – comprised of a shirt and trouser set, bomber jacket, and t-shirt – takes on the space where gender becomes ambiguous and the clothes are shared.

“With Interlude I’m exploring the androgynous aesthetic that was so big in a lot of 90s fashion,” says Kenema founder Tamu Thomas.

The shirt and pants, £95.00 and £105.00
The shirt and trousers make an undiluted African – almost animal – print easy to wear. The shirt is oversized, making a silhouette synonymous with 90s UK clubland. The trousers take a more modern tailored cut and create a contemporary fitted shape. Perfect to inject a bold dash of colour into the winter wardrobe.

Bomber jacket, £175
The reversible bomber jacket is perfect to switch seamlessly between day and night. Choose between a black and grey geometric Ase Oke fabric from Nigeria, or black and white hand woven Country Cloth from Sierra Leone, fused with neoprene arms on one side or a dazzling African print in wax cotton; a truly inventive juxtaposition of fabrics. The Country Cloth is produced in a rural area of Sierra Leone by a lady called Martha Kenneh. Martha weaves the cloth using a hand loom, making it a real heritage fabric with this method having been used for generations. The cotton comes straight from the cotton trees which is then hand spun and dyed accordingly.

T-shirt, £30.00
The t-shirt is a play on the wax cotton fabric with the brand name subtly hidden amongst the pattern. From every t-shirt and sweatshirt sold that uses the Kenema print, 25% of profits will be donated to the Innovate Salone textiles project in Kenema where young people are given the resources that enable them to produce dye for batik and tie dye design, all from local natural resources.

Kenema was launched in 2010 by Tamu, a former social worker focusing on troubled families, children and young people. “It went from receiving a dress from Sierra Leone as a present to discussions about importing them, to me sitting down and thinking there must be a way to use these fabrics in everyday garments that will appeal to a global audience, to me actually designing and producing an entire collection,” she explains.

Other recent African-inspired collections from heavyweights like Ozwald Boateng and Vivienne Westwood have seen the continent emerge as a serious player in the fashion world, with prints jumping from the catwalk to mainstream pop consciousness via stylish ambassadors including Solange Knowles and Michelle Obama.

Tamu is passionate about supporting local businesses in Sierra Leone and across Africa, directly impacting them and empowering communities. The label works with entrepreneurs and artisans to provide products, goods and services in exchange for fair pay. The country cloth is made from locally grown cotton, hand carded and spun into thread, and woven into strips on traditional looms. The strips are then sewn together edge to edge to form the finished cloth.

“We want to open pathways so the ethical background of the label is discovered,” says Tamu, mindful that awareness of these global issues is key, but savvy enough to understand people don’t want to be force fed moral viewpoints.

Kenema takes its name from the third largest city in Sierra Leone, just one of many ravaged by the civil war which raged from 1991 until 2002. “The citizens of Kenema carry themselves with such courage and resilience,” says Tamu. “I want my brand to represent that beauty, strength and tenacity in all of the people.”