African tailoring, at your fingertips. Kitenge is an app designed to bridge the gap between your fashion ideas and the skilled hands of African tailors. It offers a platform where users can customize their clothing designs, then connect with a network of tailors dedicated to turning those designs into beautifully handcrafted garments.
Lead Designer
2 months


Integrating African artistry into fashion’s mainstream

As someone who grew up in Uganda, I have been asked one too many times, during my trips back to the United States, if I lived in the jungle. I didn’t - I lived in a large, cosmopolitan city, in an image of Africa that didn’t exist in the west.

Tailoring, a widespread practice across Africa, showcases the continent's sartorial creativity and craftsmanship, utilizing unique techniques and vibrant fabrics. Despite its modest global footprint, Africa's fashion industry, valued at $31 billion, is burgeoning, driven by an increasing appreciation for its traditions, materials, and quality craftsmanship.

Prompted by these insights, I was driven to ask: How can we harness the global interest in authentic, bespoke African fashion to bridge the gap between African tailors and the global market? This question underlines the core of my project—seeking not just to introduce African fashion to the world, but to create meaningful connections that celebrate and sustain the rich heritage and creativity of African designers and tailors.


The personal stories shaping African fashion

To explore the nuances of African fashion and tailoring practices, I conducted three interviews with individuals connected to Africa by heritage, travel, or experience. These discussions aimed to understand fashion's personal significance and the role of tailoring in self-expression and cultural connection. Key insights emerged from the interviews:

Cultural connection: Participants expressed a deep connection to their African roots through fashion, highlighting tailoring as essential for personal expression.
Establishing trust: Finding a reliable tailor was crucial, often based on recommendations or through building a relationship, ensuring quality and trust in the service.
Ethical considerations: There was a strong preference for ethical practices, including local sourcing, supporting local businesses, fair transactions, and environmental consciousness, driving the choice to use tailors for creating unique and ethically made garments.


A digital tailoring renaissance, tailored for the world

Creating a user persona named Naledi from interview insights, I developed an experience map to empathize with her journey in utilizing tailoring services. This led to the idea of a service allowing users to design or customize clothes online to be made by tailors. The main functionality would focus on customizing garments and communicating African fashion culture. Initial ideation and user task flow development were followed by sketching app layouts and features, aiming for a balance between user freedom and ease of design. Wireframes were tested with users to refine the concept, emphasizing a simple, effective user experience.


Shaping a brand and app with African soul

In designing Kitenge, my aim was to encapsulate the essence of African fashion's vibrancy and innovation. The name "Kitenge," (the iconic wax batik fabric), was chosen to resonate with both Swahili speakers and global audiences, sparking curiosity and a sense of discovery.

The brand's visual narrative, drawn from a moodboard of retrofuturistic Swahili influences, reflects my journey through Kenya's Swahili coast, blending traditional African fabrics with futuristic visions.

Designing Kitenge's visual identity, from its color palette to the logo inspired by sunrise patterns found in kitenge fabric, was a fun exercise. The UI of the app embraced the neubrutalism trend, focusing on color, typography, and imagery to convey the brand's message. The creation of a design system ensured visual consistency across the screens.

Reflecting on this journey, I'm proud of the narrative woven through Kitenge, despite the challenges of working within assumptions due to limited resources. This project was not just a design exercise but a personal exploration of how fashion can convey complex cultural stories, connecting wearers and creators across continents.

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