Words by Louisa Choruma
‘’Ankara, kitenge are all the same fabric, the names are given based on one’s location. For example, in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, they call it Kitenge or Kikwebe. In West Africa it is known as Ankara and in the Congo, it is known as Liputa. In Zambia it is referred to as Chitenge and in your home Zimbabwe ‘maZambia,’ since these fabrics are sourced from your neighboring Zambia!’’
These were the opening remarks for Aimee’s presentation at a workshop one morning! The ease with which she shared of her love and passion for the proudly African fabric, which boasts intricate yet unique designs, varying textures and bright, was all it took for a friendship to sprout between two lovers of African textiles! Aimee Kenemo is the Founder of Lupitawax, an online store for African textiles that is based in Uganda.
“The unique and elegant standout look of a woman in African traditional attire, especially as I’ve seen in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo inspired me to create a brand that would be an expression of our unique cultural identity, while making it easy for those in other continents to also access,” says Aimee.
Aimee’s passion kept growing stronger as she watched her mum and other women in her community adorn stunning attire made from African print. This ignited a flame to build a brand with the aim of making the world embrace African culture, encouraging people to wear African inspired clothing, the diverse styles in design which come in assortments of bright colour and natural hues.
“I wanted to learn about the origins of this type of material, how it was made, how it was to be handled when washing or pressing, so that I could pass on this information to my clients,” Aimee adds.
She believes that in entrepreneurship, it is important to also educate customers on the products they are purchasing, their manufacturing processes and design inspiration so that that that same passion for the product can be transferred onto the end user.
“Ultimately we exist to empower those keen in joining the textile business through training, so they can eventually start their very own African business journey in this industry,” asserts Aimee confidently.
Lupitawax – beyond the online store front
The brand’s business model seeks to update and educate, especially fashion houses from around the globe, about different fabrics and the newest trends in the African textiles industry. Every month the business takes the initiative to engage more fashion business hubs through live online session to see to it that they become familiar with the Lupitawax line of products.
Lupitawax also leverages the power of social media and digital marketing to promote the brand, with a keen focus to offer bespoke solutions for each client that engages with the brand through these media forms. Clients can connect directly with the brand, making requests for their preferred styles through phone calls, direct messaging, face-to-face chats via skype or Zoom calls. New age media and virtual communications allows the Uganda-based brand to connect with audiences in different parts of the world, showcasing products that met individually specific client needs.
“With bases in the United States of America, specifically in Kansas, Texas, and California, as well as in London, our partners are set up in these locations to help distribute our fabric samples to those in need of product knowledge. We have done this so that there is an opportunity for our customers to know how to distinguish the different fabrics, how they are manufactured, the varying designs and this also serves as a platform to inspire our potential business partners keen to also start textile business within Africa,” says Aimee.
Over the years, Lupitawax has grown to work with different stakeholders; from the clothing brands, to fashion houses and agencies, textile retailers and wholesalers. The diversity of Lupitawax offerings enables the company to serve every sector of the fashion industry.
When asked to comment on her brand’s outlook, Aimee chimes in: “Lupitawax’s goal is to see that we grow, becoming visible enough to supply African print materials in as many countries as we can muster a footprint worldwide. We want to be foremost in making it possible for the world to source African material from Uganda, while empowering those interested in our various initiatives with more information on how they too can get involved in the African print revolution.”
When she is not running her fingers over the latest fabric and admiring the colors, patterns and textures of new African designs, Aimee can be found cooking her favorite traditional dish – cassava leaves and rice! A creative with blessed hands, Aimee also has a keen interest in the hair business and plans to open her own salon one day!