Claire Kean is combining her talent in fashion design, love of travel, and personal connection with Africa to create a bold and colorful clothing line that’s gaining attention on the national runway.
Kean, an Iowa State University senior in apparel, merchandising, and design, is the guest designer this weekend (February 20-22, 2015) at an African fashion show in Dallas, Texas. She’ll showcase eight pieces of her clothing line there.
She’ll then highlight twice as many pieces of her brightly-colored women’s blouses, skirts, trousers, and fitted dresses on the runway during African Fashion Week in Washington, D.C. on March 21. The fashion shows will provide exposure for Kean’s new line of spring clothing.
“Her target market for the line is diverse and the garments are visually exciting,” said Eulanda Sanders, the Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing. “Her target consumers are African women living in the U.S. and she used West African cotton wax prints as the primary fabrics in her line.”
The Kranto Kolection
Kean is about to launch her business promoting the “Kranto Kolection,” her line of women’sclothing aimed at African women living in the United States. She’s finished eight pieces of the 16-piece collection so far. She named her line in honor of her fiance, Webster Kranto, a senior in industrial technology who is from West Africa.
“We’re going to start this brand when I graduate and he helps me a lot,” Kean said. “It’s for African women ages 18 to 35 who are living in America. It’s representing their cultural identity, but is still trendy by western standards. My line aims to accentuate their favorite curves. It’s just a really feminine line.”
Kean interviewed women of African descent in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Houston, Dallas, and Des Moines, as well as her fiance’s family and friends, for her line. Her research found that the women are looking for fashions that accentuate their bottoms, so her clothing line uses pleating in that area.
“In all of the different regions, they have the same preferences,” she said. “No one said the bust, which was surprising. Ninety percent said the hips/behind, while 10 percent said legs.”
“Her target market for the line is diverse and the garments are visually exciting. Her target consumers are African women living in the U.S. and she used West African cotton wax prints as the primary fabrics in her line.” — Eulanda Sanders
Her garments are made of wax-print fabrics that come in lime green, lemon yellow, light orange, hot pink, and indigo blue. She got the idea for the line and purchased all of the eye-catching material in Ghana, where she interned for 10 weeks last summer withGlobal Mamas, a fair trade clothing company.
Kean has trademarked the name of her clothing line, and hopes to launch her company’swebsite this month. She is contacting sewing factories and fabric producers in Ghana to help manufacture her garments.
“I’m kind of addicted to traveling,” she said. “It was the 19th country I’ve been to and fifth continent. I want to go everywhere. That was my first time being in Africa. I just wanted to go somewhere different that not everyone goes to. I loved it.”
Internship in Africa
The connections that Kean made in Ghana and experience she gained during her internship with Global Mamas helped to establish the foundation for her new clothing line and business.
She designed and hand-printed new stamps for fabric through the batik process, and worked with the quality control team to learn production issues. She assisted designers with cloth consumption and pattern layout. She sourced the local market for new materials and fabrics, and experimented with these products. She also helped to make production copies of patterns, and created a color and fabric guide for quality control.
“I helped them design some new garments and surface pattern designs,” she said. “One of them just got accepted in the catalog which will be sold throughout all of their stores in the world.”
Kean’s new African clothing collection will also be among the entries in The Fashion Show 2015, a student-run event at Iowa State University in its 33rd year. She’ll enter her garments in the ready-to-wear category, which is another name for streetwear.
“I saw other senior lines and mine’s very different,” Kean said. “There’s no one else that’s competing with this look. I don’t think there ever has been, either. There are tons of other people doing ready-to-wear, but mine definitely stands out.”
This year’s Fashion Show will be held at 7 p.m. April 11 at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. Presale of tickets for The Fashion Show begin Monday; general ticket sales begin March 2.
The next few months will be a whirlwind for Kean. First comes the fashion shows in February, March, and April. That’s followed by graduation in May. Kean will then go to Ohio, where she’ll intern this summer at Abercrombie and Fitch. She gets married a week later, on Aug. 15. The couple plans to move to Houston, Texas to begin their new life together.
Claire’s designs look good on any American, including this college student of Chinese, Brazilian and European descent:
Claire Kean, senior in apparel, merchandising, and design; Iowa State University, 319-743-0818, email@example.com
Eulanda Sanders, Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing; Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management; Iowa State University, 515-294-7857,firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Campbell, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-3689, email@example.com
Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management | 31 MacKay Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1121
Phone: (515) 294-7474 | Fax: (515) 294-6364 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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