In this episode of Third Culture Africans, Zeze interviews Ngoni Chikwenengere – a blogger, lifestyle influencer, designer, and the visionary behind the brand We Are KIN, a women’s wear size-inclusive slow fashion brand rooted in sustainability.
Ngoni moved from Zimbabwe to London at the age of 10 and faced challenges in middle school due to her African heritage. Starting a blog at 16 in Northampton, where diversity was scarce, she created a platform to share her interests. Her early blogs ranged from discussing fashion to expressing admiration for celebrities. Through the internet, she connected with like-minded individuals. After the Rana Plaza disaster occurred while she was studying fashion, and witnessing unsold stock being sent to burn while interning, Ngoni Chikwenengere began to focus on a more sustainable living. Noticing a gap in the market for affordable contemporary tailored pieces for young women, she launched her label We are Kin and seized the opportunity to showcase her debut collection at London Fashion Week.
By utilizing end-of-line fabrics, sustainable materials, and closely collaborating with the manufacturing factory, We Are KIN focuses on crafting simple, timeless pieces that defy fast fashion trends. The brand offers items in sizes ranging from 6 to 26, and for customers falling outside these sizes, custom-made pieces are also available. This inclusivity is a rarity in the fashion industry, where most brands hesitate to cater to women of larger sizes. Moreover, Ngoni’s innovative approach goes beyond clothing; she employs 3D renders for her clothing line, conserving resources and presenting garments more inclusively.
In addition to her fashion pursuits, Ngoni successfully maintains her lifestyle blogging, garnering popularity among other digital influencers. Through adept use of social media, she has forged a personal connection with her audience. Her transparency and authenticity have cultivated customer trust and engagement. Consistently posting and actively interacting with her audience have been pivotal in propelling her brand’s growth. In assessing social media metrics, Ngoni prioritizes sales and conversion rates over follower count. Her overarching goal is to expand her brand while unwaveringly adhering to her core values.
During the conversation, Ngoni addresses the entrepreneurial highs and lows, underscoring her experiences during the pandemic. Contrary to her expectations, her brand gained traction as people sought out sustainable and black-owned businesses. She acknowledges the challenge of striking the right balance between growth and ethical practices, particularly in partnerships with larger retailers. Ngoni also delves into the predicament of fast fashion and emphasizes the importance of ethical choices in fashion consumption, highlighting the availability of affordable and sustainable alternatives for consumers.
Looking ahead, Ngoni aspires to achieve B-Corp certification while steadfastly aligning her brand with its values and indicators of success.
Dive in! This episode resonates with the journey of building a meaningful and sustainable business within the African diaspora. Learn about the power of inclusivity and sustainability in fashion, discover how authenticity and transparency build trust, and uncover how to balance growth with ethical values.
- 🎙️ Welcome Ngoni Chikwenengere to Third Culture Africans!: (00:00)
- 🌍 Transitioning from Zimbabwe to London (03:54)
- 📖 Starting a blog at the age of sixteen (05:49)
- 💼 When blogging became a business (07:46)
- 🌍 Facing challenges due to African heritage (08:57)
- 🧐 Ngoni’s sense of identity (11:02)
- 👨👩👧👦 Unveiling Ngoni’s family’s reaction to her move into fashion (13:54)
- 📚 Journey from school to Foundation Diploma in Art and Design and then graduating from university (17:15)
- 📝 Did blogging shape how Ngoni was becoming a designer? (20:45)
- 👗 Starting and building We are KIN (21:45)
- ✨ From the First Collection to the Second: Shifting Towards Size Inclusivity (26:22)
- 💲 How Ngoni decides what she charges (32:36)
- 🛍️ Customer’s role in Ngoni’s designing process (33:59)
- 🖥️ About 3D renders & the role technology plays in Ngoni’s business (35:25)
- 🌱 Ngoni’s goals for We are KIN having been voted Forbes 30 under 30 (38:09)
- 📊 Dealing with high and lows in entrepreneurship; the pandemic (40:23)
- 📱 Experience leveraging social media for We are KIN (44:15)
- ♻️ Thoughts about fast fashion (50:02)
- ⚖️ Balancing Long-Term Vision and Industry Sustainability (51:58)
- 📈 Ngoni’s metrics around social media focusing on bank balance (58:12)
- 🏆 Ngoni’s next goal: B-Corp certification (59:47)
Connect with Ngoni Chikwenengere:
We Are KIN: