THE PAN-AFRICAN BRAND THAT BRINGS CULTURE TO FASHION
Explore pan-African traditions with this bold boutique brand that pays homage to the continent and celebrates the art of making culture chic. We caught up with the founders, Alex and Lindy, to talk about how Kali Works turns the feeling of taking pride in your roots into a fashion statement
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Founded in Vancouver in 2019, and based in Montreal since 2021, Kali Works proves that combining slow fashion with art is the 'it formula' that transforms the wardrobes of stylish chic lovers. The pan-African boutique has released collections focused on exploring indigenous culture and proudly wearing it on your sleeve. A one-of-a-kind brand with unique vision, Kali Works finds inspiration in the vivid past of African traditions, showcasing that distance is not an obstacle as long as we feel connected to our homeland and the places we belong to.
Alex Dingiria, the conceptualist, and Lindani Mokgweetsi, the creative brand director, are immigrants from African origin, who maintained a strong bond to pieces of their native culture even after moving abroad. Through their innovative ideas the duo expands one of the biggest industries in the world by bringing forward African values and putting an emphasis on the narrative of authenticity in the fashion world. Kali Works incorporates the ideology that traditions are an element of life which can inspire each generation to seek different ways of connecting to their homeland.
The collections introduced by the brand - The Nairobian, Bogolan Coats ,Cave Art and more - are centered around celebrating the spirit of Africa. Whilst the apparel is influenced by traditional designs rooted in African history, the clothes and jewellery by Kali Works signify that expressing your origins through your style has never looked better.
Savannah Morrow - Rubina Top Café
Honolulu Sunglasses Black
Savannah Morrow - Rena Skirt
‘‘Being born and raised in Botswana, I have a deep appreciation of Botswana's preservation of our culture and history. I wanted to share a collection to acknowledge the history of art in itself.’’
Lindani Mokgweetsi, founder of Kali Works for NOMADSofORIGIN Magazine
We love the brand not solely for their artistic work and sleek designs, but also for their respectful approach to making the fashion world more sustainable and eco-conscious. The products used by the brand are sourced, as much as possible, from the country of origin, meaning that a lot of the materials are hand-made or painted.
Kali Works is known for being a collaborative brand. They give platform to African artists to express their culture by incorporating elements of it in the apparel. Stunning face pieces and detailed jewellery; linen loungewear and satin kimonos - Kali Works is art in the making. Support this inspirational black-owned business by shopping the brand at UBC's Museum of Anthropology gift shop in Vancouver or browse their online shop from the comfort of your home.
We caught up with Alex and Lindy to talk about indulging culture and art in fashion, the new way to pay homage to one's sense of self and the inspiration behind the founders' creative process.
Palm Swimwear - Viper Bikini Set Ivory
Papeete Sunglasses Black
Coqui Coqui - Coco Coco | Body Oil
NOMADSofORIGIN: What inspires your brand?
Daisy Sophia: I think it’s very important to have indigenous representation in all available formats, and it’s why we try to speak on the source culture for our collections as much as possible. Otherwise, we as Africans also risk misrepresenting and ‘othering’ ourselves the same ways that we complain we are viewed within western gazes. We’re definitely not perfect, but we make a great effort towards that respect. Doubly important because Africans benefit the least from the commodification of their cultures, so if commodification is unavoidable, we should at least try to own its production and elevate their narratives at minimum.
NOMADSofORIGIN: Family is a core value of Castaway. What else drives the creativity of the brand?
Daisy Sophia: There’s been quite a few to name them all, from Kakinbow in Senegal for mud cloth goods, Rosen Ian in Kenya for stylised illustration, Koketso in South Africa for some of the metal jewellry. I have my eyes on a few people we’d like to work with in various stages in future, but I’ll hold on to that list for now! Brands like Maxhosa, IAMISIGO, Daily Paper, and Atelier New Regime are some of the ones we look up to.
NOMADSofORIGIN: You have been to Costa Rica, Australia and Sri Lanka. What are your favourite travel destinations you've been to and can you give us recommendations on the best things to do there?
Daisy Sophia: On top of the pieces just being ‘fly’, our supporters tend to ‘click’ with something in the piece right away, whether it’s the pattern, the origin culture, choice or cut of fabric, or just our reason for making them, it’s about maintaining that initial reaction of ‘Wow! I didn’t even know this cool thing could even exist!’. That’s a reaction of being seen, it makes you feel alive somewhere inside. For me, that feeling makes me curious about what else is out there that is similar? So when you begin to ask yourself all kinds of questions about fashion, art and culture, we’re here to help you answer them.
NOMADSofORIGIN: Your grandparents have influenced your passion for travelling. What is your most treasured travel memory?
Daisy Sophia Being born and raised in Botswana, I have a deep appreciation of Botswana's preservation of our culture and history. I wanted to share a collection to acknowledge the history of art in itself. How important art is in illustrating the worlds we live in and the worlds we come from.
NOMADSofORIGIN: What advice would you give to the sustainable traveller?
Daisy Sophia: Look, if they do exist, we’re absolutely in search of secrets ourselves! Not sure about there being a single secret in what we do, we just try to learn and work towards expressing that as best as possible in our products.
Palm Swimwear - Viper Bikini Set Black Rib
Voyanics - Aloe Vera Toner Mist
Castaway - Tigereye Bracelet
‘‘I’ve travelled a bit, and I’ll put Nairobi up there as one of the most vibrant cities on Earth, just in terms of concentration of human activity and the appetite for life that flows from that.’’
Alex Dingiria, founder of Kali Works for NOMADSofORIGIN Magazine
NOMADSofORIGIN: The Castaway boutique has unique pieces. Which are the items you cannot travel without?Daisy Sophia: Every collection is a learning experience because we’re always experimenting and trying something new, often somewhere new as well. Africa is vast and varied, so how people do business changes drastically from country to country. Even within countries, it can change depending on the region.
NOMADSofORIGIN: Your old family albums filled with faded photos of island-like pages sparked your love for exploring. In the age of digital exploration, what do you think is the best way to collect travel memories?
Daisy Sophia: Probably The Nairobian, which plays directly off of The New Yorker magazine covers, for three main things. First, it’s an homage to my hometown Nairobi where I’m claiming space among other internationally admired, cultural epicentres like New York, London, Paris, Tokyo. I’ve travelled a bit, and I’ll put Nairobi up there as one of the most vibrant cities on Earth, just in terms of concentration of human activity and the appetite for life that flows from that.
Second, The Nairobian also launched with our Kenyan online store, continuing our Pan-African vision by having an African presence where some of our goods are directly available at/close to source. And third, I don’t think Africans’ view on culture is fixated on indigeneity, especially for those of us who grew up urban. So, it’s important for me to show the urban sides as I know them, and as enthusiastically and equally authentic as our indigenous-derived works.
NOMADSofORIGIN: Nowadays, what does it take to be an entrepreneur as a woman and a traveller and how do you stay creative in times when travelling has been restricted?
Daisy Sophia: The cave art kimono. It is very versatile and I can wear it throughout the year. I love that it has a perfect balance of simplicity and sophistication.
NOMADSofORIGIN: Thank you so much for this interview. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Alex: The results of some experimentation, we have a couple of cool stories we’re working on bringing to life. Overall our big picture goals are unchanged, just some refinements and making sure each series has something better than the last one.
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NOMADSofORIGIN x Castaway