Claire Kean, an ISU senior in apparel, merchandising and design, shows off a few of her dresses from her her line, “Kranto Kolection.” Her designs were recently showcased in an African fashion show in Texas, and more of them will be featured at African Fashion Week in Washington, D.C., on March 21. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune
Student’s designs to take the runway at African Fashion Week by Julie Ferrell, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org –
When Claire Kean saw the vibrant fabrics and patterns on the streets of Ghana, it was love at first sight.
The Iowa State University senior in apparel, merchandising and design used the fabrics as the driving force behind her senior design project, and the idea has since turned into her own clothing line, the “Kranto Kolection.”
Seven of the designs were recently showcased at an African fashion show in Texas, and more will be featured during African Fashion Week in Washington, D.C., on March 21.
The collection is named after Kean’s fiance, Webster Kranto, who is from West Africa. Kean said he and his family have been supportive and helped her with the research element of the collection.
“Through knowing him and his family and being close to them, I realized there’s part of the market that really wasn’t being satisfied so much,” Kean said. “I know people are doing similar things on a small scale, but the scale I want to do it on is hard to find, as far as finding garments mass-produced.”
Kean said the spring clothing line includes brightly colored dresses, blouses and skirts intended for 18- to 35-year-old African women living in the United States.
“They still want to represent the culture through the fabric I’m using, but also still be stylish according to what’s stylish in the U.S. right now,” she said.
Part of the West African culture is shown through the fabric Kean uses. The dresses are mostly made with wax prints, which Kean said help to make the patterns more vibrant. The fabric typically keeps more of the dye color, which Kean said “makes all the colors in the U.S. look dull.”
Kean first found the fabrics during an internship in Ghana, and she spent some of her researching process interviewing friends she met there.
“I was really unsure about it in the beginning,” Kean said. “But they really inspired me to do it, because they said clothing like this is hard to find.”
During the interviews, Kean asked the women about the styles they prefer. Their interests were then incorporated into the final designs, which Kean said are mostly fitted with a “really feminine look” to accentuate the hourglass shape.
But the work doesn’t end for Kean after African Fashion Week. She hopes to launch a website for the collection soon, and is in touch with manufacturers in Ghana. Kean will be graduating in May, and will spend the summer as an intern for Abercrombie and Fitch before getting married in August. She and Kranto then plan to move to Texas, where Kean said she hopes to become an assistant designer for a company while she waits for her line to take off.
“I really want this to be my focus,” she said. “We want to eventually start making menswear and children’s. It’s unique and there’s a demand for it.”
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