Local communications strategist Jamila Kyari authors a compelling fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog which brings a unique African perspective to the local style scene.
Through her articles, social media content, personal style and brand advocacy, Kyari inspires women to live a colourful, vibrant and bold life through African fashion and culture.
“African print fabrics usually have very colourful, vibrant hues. Wearing them really uplifts my mood – I love colour because I feel like our lives should be colourful” said Kyari.
Three years ago, it was Kyari’s fascination with African fashion and the infiltration of African prints globally that motivated her to launch this passion project. Since then, she has turned her blog into a platform that enthusiastically showcases the philosophies behind African fashion.
She also goes out of her way to share the stories behind both local and global fashion designers who are using African textiles and other forms of inspiration from the continent.
“I do a lot of research into the different brands I feature because I want to know who the founders really are, how and why they got started, how they make their clothes, and if they have any connection to Africa themselves,” Kyari said.
“Some brands work with artisans in African countries to make the products and I like to capture the stories behind those communities as well.”
In addition to her careful research, Kyari was born and raised in Nigeria before coming to Canada over 15 years ago. She brings some of her own cultural background and influences into her work, making her a genuine and trustworthy voice within the African fashion community.
Through commenting on the attention that the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to Black-owned businesses and Black culture, Kyari explained how her work helps to amplify the incredible things that are happening in the Black community.
“People are looking for where to find these authentic African prints, soaps, candles and other cultural artifacts that can help them connect with Black culture in a deep and genuine way, and I think that my blog helps to highlight some of those brands,” Kyari said.
Articulating a warm and inclusive perspective, Kyari shared that she thinks of fashion as a means of expression which can spark conversation, foster connection and create community regardless of where people come from.
“As long as people respect the values and history of where African prints and styles come from, rather than just dressing up as though they’re wearing a costume, I don’t think it’s cultural appropriation. In fact, I want people to feel empowered to use these fabrics in their own personal style because if they’re being embraced, it’s a beautiful thing,” Kyari said.
To that end, Kyari’s blog emphasizes the cultural history and evolution of these materials, educating readers to give them that deeper understanding. For example, she shared that the origin of African prints actually dates back to Indonesia and has a very rich history.
It’s because these prints and fabrics have been embraced by Africans over the years that they have been adopted as their own. That said, Kyari explained that there are several textiles indigenous to Africa as well, such as the Adire cloth, which is made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and Mudcloth which can be found in Mali.
When it comes to accumulating her own wardrobe, Kyari enjoys thrifting and has even collaborated with local thrift boutiques in Kitchener such as Artisanal Design Co., and Le Prix – two of her personal favourites.
Her striking style involves placing an African twist on the pieces she collects to reflect a sense of what she calls ‘socio-cultural sophistication’.
“I coined that phrase when I was first getting started because it communicates that I want women to know about, and feel empowered by the amazing things that come out of Africa.”
At the root of it all, Kyari’s message is about building capacity and community through empowering others to be their brightest and boldest selves. She places self-love and self-care at the top of her priority list and encourages others to do the same.
“Grooming, taking care of you, and being kind and compassionate to yourself – that’s what looking good should be all about. If you want to dress up and look nice then you must really be intentional and deliberate about how you want to feel.”
Jenna is finishing up an English and Business degree at the University of Waterloo while working in KW’s tech industry part-time. She also has a passion for journalism and is a freelance writer. When she’s not working, you can find Jenna singing around town, picking through the poetry section of used book stores or soaking up the sun whenever she has the chance.