ROCKFORD – New fashion collection, “Ingoma,” officially launched this month.
Local artist Kelvin Candie says The High and Mighty celebrates his Malawian heritage and is also a love letter to Rockford.
“This brand is for everyone,” he said. “We wanted something versatile enough that (anyone) could wear it, even your grandmother.”
The Ingoma collection is for both men and women and includes dresses, skirts, sweatpants, t-shirts, crop tops and more. Candie says that when she designs, she also thinks about women being over sized to be more “inclusive”.
The artist who is a fashion designer, said that it has always been his dream to own a brand. The High and Mighty was not an original creation, but its previous owner, Mario Martinez, gave it to him as a gift.
“Initially, I wanted to collaborate with the owner, but over time our schedules clashed and in the end he said, ‘You are really excited about this project; what if you just had it? ” ‘
Candie acquired the brand in 2019 but says she needs some time before doing anything with it. As the COVID-19 pandemic hits, it is further delaying the launch.
With the help of a younger brother, Victor Kabwaibwai, the two come up with a solid business plan. Kabwaibwai graduated last year from Illinois State University with degrees in business administration and accounting. He says he’s brought a business perspective to the table, along with his youthful knowledge of trends for his generation. There is a 10 year age difference between the two brothers.
“My sister has a great fashion sense and I think she’s a style icon,” said Candie. “He loves fashion.
“We clash sometimes, but I trust his opinion. I knew that he would not let me put out the mundane for the dollar. “
For Candie, the birth of her 1 year old son is the motivation she should launch.
“Things changed when I gave birth to my son,” she said. “It changed the way I thought about everything. It was then that inspiration really took root in the sense that I no longer thought about me, but began to think about the future and what I was going to leave behind.
“I hope that if he sees me creating something, it will instill in him a good work ethic and morals.”
Candie has always dreamed of owning her own brand. He said it took a little convincing to get his brother to join him as business partners, but they worked well together.
“It’s just the vision,” said Kabwaibwai. “It’s one thing when someone says it, but it’s another thing when you see it.
“When he talked to me at first, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea, but I was so shocked when he called me one day and showed me some of the things he’s been up to. I was impressed by his vision and said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ “
Currently, people can buy items from the collection via their Instagram page. The brothers will be launching a website soon. In the near future, Kabwaibwai says they will host popup events, first in Rockford and then in other cities such as Chicago and Atlanta. They also plan to partner with other businesses.
“This is a Black-owned brand, but the clothes are for everyone, said Candie.” We don’t want to grow too fast. The idea is to grow slowly, and keep production limited. ”
Some of the work will be shown in April at the Rockford Area Arts Council’s ArtScene event.
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