Meet Kuwala, the E-Commerce Boutique Bringing Vibrant African Fashion to Canada
“Ku wala” means “to shine” in the Malawian language of Chichewa, and that’s exactly what Veronica Nnensa and Freeda Mulenga, the entrepreneurs behind Toronto-based e-commerce boutique Kuwala, want you to do when wearing their clothes. The duo founded Kuwala, which boasts 20K Instagram followers, in 2014 after embarking on trips to Ghana and South Africa to visit friends and family. Their focus is on promoting designers who fuse African textiles with Western style and the shop is filled with vibrant colours and daring prints that demonstrate the wide breadth and scope of African fashion.
We spoke with Veronica and Freeda learn more about how the business began, how they’re redefining African fashion, and where they plan to be in 5 years time.
What inspired you to become business partners?
We had the same vision, passion and love for African fashion. Almost 5 years ago, we were both chatting about wanting to incorporate more African fashion in our daily lives. At the time, there weren’t many sources online or in-person to buy these vibrant and unique styles. That conversation sparked our interest in starting a business together. While it took almost another year of planning and saving, we eventually launched Kuwala and became business partners.
Who does Kuwala cater to?
We cater to professional women that have a strong connection with the African continent, in some way or another. Some of the most effective strategies we have implemented to reach our stylish target audience is by having an engaging social media presence and hosting in-person pop-up shops.
How does Kuwala maintain African heritage in the clothing designs, while making sure that the brand is not left behind in fashion’s constantly changing environment?
We select designers that fit-in with the broad Kuwala brand while giving them the creative freedom to evolve their styles. Since we welcome new and established brands on our website, we are able to change with trends and constantly update the looks that are available at Kuwala.co.
How is Kuwala redefining African fashion in Canada and abroad?
We’ve created an attractive website and charming online presence to showcase brilliant styles that you can’t find in your regular shopping mall. We feel that we’re helping to make African fashion more accessible to all that are either really passionate or generally curious about the evolving and diverse African aesthetic. Whether it’s by shopping for stunning outfits or reading our blog posts, we hope that everyone that visits our website leaves with a greater love and curiosity for African fashion.
Where would Kuwala like to be in 5 years?
In 5 years, we want to keep building on our business’ foundation, while reaching a wider audience. We want to continue to inspire people to incorporate clothing or an accessory in their daily lives. We’re looking forward to working with new and upcoming designers globally, and discovering how African fashion as a whole will evolve. We’re excited to see where this industry goes!