Interview with designer and entrepreneur, Mkuki Bgoya of Kina Klothing

Mkuki-Bgoya

This week, I'm happy to share with you, the passion and work of my Tanzanian brother, Mkuki Bgoya, designer and founder of Kina Klothing. What is Kina Klothing? Kina Klothing is "Pan Afrikan, Art, Bongo Flava, Afro Beat, Taarab, Fashion, Poetry, Sankofa, Jazz, Pop-Culture, Fela Kuti , 60s, 70s, 80s Afrika, HipHop, Illustration, Cassette tapes, Street, Soul, Vinyl records, Politics, Animation, Disco, Electronic, basketball, fun, Zouk, Bolingo, Photography, Soccer, Play, CDs, mp3s, Graphic Design…everyday people.

When he isn't working on new collections for Kina Klothing, Mkuki runs a branding firm, Spearhead, from his base in Dar es Salaam, and is involved with publishing company, Mkuki na Nyota, specialising in indigenous books. 

I set out to find out what drives this busy man …

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What's your passion?
My passion is to create and more specifically, using design to share my ideas with others.

What inspired you to start Kina Klothing?
I was inspired by the need for clothing that was created with us in mind. At the time I was living in the US and it was very hard to find any graphic tees that spoke to me as an Afrikan. The few tees I could find were poorly done – bad quality from the graphics to the actual fabric and often carrying clichéd imagery!   

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What has your greatest challenge been?
So far our greatest challenge has been distributing our clothing within the continent. We have an online store but shipping things to Afrika can be quite difficult and hard to predict. Sometimes the goods just don't reach their intended destination. It is also hard because I also run my own design firm, with client work which takes a lot of time as well.

How have you dealt with/overcome it?
Still working on figuring out the best setup for distributing my clothing. In terms of splitting time between Spearhead and Kina Klothing I am trying to calibrate my process and figure out how to divide my time better and eventually, where I want to focus my energies more. Being an entrepreneur, it's always a learning process.

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What has been your greatest achievement?
So far we have had amazing response from people all over the world. We get orders from places we do not even expect. That's been a blessing. For now our greatest achievement is maintaining a profitable business and doing what I love. Basically staying at state of play – for me, that's big. 

Where will you be in 10 years?
I like to keep changing and reinventing things so, we'll have to wait and see. But more likely more self-initiated projects, product design and much less client/commissioned work.

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How does Africa inspire you?
It is where I live, where I was born and raised, except for a small hiatus in the States. The sights, sounds, smells, pop culture and the rapid change which we experience in urban Africa is a constant source of inspiration. I am inspired by my environment so It is not only "African Inspiration," it is just inspiration. I think it becomes interesting when one fuses their own sensibilities with what their environment throws at them. 

Anything else you'd like to share?
Yeah, I would like to point people to some of the projects I am involved in: Spearhead Branding and Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in addition to Kina Klothing. Also visit our facebook page and spread the word to your friends to join our page.

Kina-Klothing-Uhuru

Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
Look out for our new collection dropping in Spring 2011. We're gonna feature more than just tees this time and we'll open it up to the wider Africa and diaspora. Our first collection, Uhuru Street, focused more on Tanzania. I'm really excited about this next one, can't wait to share it with you guys. 

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Images courtesy of Mkuki Bgoya and Kina Klothing

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