Yvonne ‘Kemi’ Telford’s beautiful designs inspired by her Nigerian homeland have been a runaway hit


Fashion’s most popular ticket appropriate now? Africa. This 7 days sees the opening of the V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Manner, which celebrates the continent’s vibrant and eclectic seems to be and incorporates showcases by LVMH prizewinner Thebe Magugu, whose patterns have been worn by the likes of Miley Cyrus. 

One these designer who’s bringing the ingenuity of this manner scene to the British significant street is Yvonne Telford, the female powering cult label Kemi Telford. Her bold wax-print apparel, which are influenced by her Nigerian upbringing, have caught the eye of John Lewis and very last month observed the start of her second collaboration with the store. 

‘Kemi Telford was 1 of our quickest-marketing new brand names previous spring and we can’t hold out to see the response to this new selection,’ claims Jo Bennett, head of acquiring at John Lewis. 

Yvonne Telford, the woman behind cult label Kemi Telford, is bringing her designs, inspired by her by her Nigerian homeland to the British high street. In nigeria, where Kemi was born, Lagos fashion week, is now a leading event on the style calendar

Yvonne Telford, the female guiding cult label Kemi Telford, is bringing her models, motivated by her by her Nigerian homeland to the British large avenue. In nigeria, where by Kemi was born, Lagos style week, is now a leading party on the type calendar

‘My model wasn’t planned. I’ve in no way experienced a business enterprise plan – I nevertheless really do not,’ suggests Telford, 48, a previous credit rating chance analyst who considering that starting up her label (Kemi is quick for her middle title Oluwakemi) in 2017 has amassed a 75K-robust Instagram next of devoted admirers. 

It is quick to see the charm. Her signature daring prints and bright colors provide a sartorial mood enhance, something significantly wanted adhering to a greige, athleisure-loaded previous pair of several years. ‘The pandemic taught us to enjoy our lives. Color is a huge portion of that, no make any difference what you are likely as a result of,’ says Telford. Items are feminine with out experience fussy and arrive in simple silhouettes. 

Kemi in one of her own designs. Her signature bold prints and bright colours offer a sartorial mood boost, something particularly needed following a greige, athleisure-filled past couple of years

Kemi in a person of her very own layouts. Her signature bold prints and dazzling colours offer you a sartorial mood raise, anything particularly desired subsequent a greige, athleisure-crammed earlier few of several years

If the why appears to be noticeable, the how undoubtedly isn’t. Born in Kano, Nigeria, an desire in trend was sparked early on in Telford’s childhood by her outfits-loving neighborhood. ‘Nigerians are pretty into manner – it is a way to verify who you are as a individual,’ she suggests. Having said that, her parents’ ambition for her to develop into a law firm quashed any style goals. Rather, in 1996 Telford moved to England to review legislation ‘with £250 in my pocket and my father’s blessing’. 

The initially skirts I manufactured in an African wax print marketed out in an hour

During these several years, she claims, she all but missing her perception of style. ‘When I arrived to the British isles, I shrank myself. I preferred to in good shape in so I wore black and navy.’ But getting to be a mother or father shifted her mentality and, 20 decades just after leaving the riotous colours of her homeland, manner came back again into her daily life. ‘When I come to be a mother, anything switched I had to embrace myself once more. So I started executing the university run in the boldest outfits.’ This led to her beginning a web site in which she posted her colourful outfits and offered totes and T-shirts. The strategy for her individual brand name came right after she recognized her followers ended up in particular intrigued in her vivid skirts. ‘I received two designs built in an African wax print and they offered out in an hour. Then I moved on to attire.’ 

Imane Ayissi's 2019 catwalk show. This week sees the opening of the V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Fashion, which celebrates the continent’s vibrant and eclectic looks

Imane Ayissi’s 2019 catwalk show. This 7 days sees the opening of the V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Fashion, which celebrates the continent’s vibrant and eclectic seems

Her brand’s accomplishment has been anchored by Telford’s refusal to above-extend herself. It wasn’t right up until 2019 that she moved the company out of her home in Carshalton Beeches, South London, into a close by warehouse, and last Oct was the very first time she made use of a qualified photographer up right until then her husband and young children (12 and 14) took the pictures for her internet site. This humble approach has intended that from her original particular investment decision of £50, she has developed the model without the need of any debts or exterior buyers. 


V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Style celebrates the get the job done of 45 designers from in excess of 20 nations, and capabilities items by the continent’s most iconic creatives, including Nigeria’s ‘first vogue designer’ Shade Thomas-Fahm, and its largest present-day talents these as Laduma Ngxokolo (under) and Imane Ayissi. It opens on 2 July, tickets £16 vam.ac.uk 

V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Fashion celebrates the work of 45 designers from over 20 countries including Imane Ayissi Ngxokolo (pictured)

V&A’s landmark exhibition Africa Manner celebrates the do the job of 45 designers from around 20 nations around the world such as Imane Ayissi Ngxokolo (pictured)

‘My gut intuition has always been my compass,’ she suggests. It’s also given her a keen idea of how gals want to gown – arguably more than any formal coaching could. ‘I really don’t have a style track record. I have learnt anything by way of courses, books and my faults.’ Her unbreakable rule? If she just cannot put on it, she won’t layout it. This means she results in clothes for girls who aren’t a sample sizing, a level shown by Telford modelling her dresses on her internet site and social channels. Pieces are stocked in sizes S-XL, with XXL coming before long. 

Her intuitive and inclusive designs charm to a wide demographic. While the brand’s main age bracket is 32 to 45 decades, customers assortment from teens to 50s: ‘I don’t forget looking at a 20-year-previous putting on a pair of my palazzo pants with a crop top rated.’ It is a fanbase as committed as it is varied devoted clients even have a WhatsApp team where buys and styling recommendations are discussed. It’s this loyalty that has meant Kemi Telford’s advancement is due to phrase of mouth the brand name only began shelling out for advertising in late 2020. 

‘Without the community I have no company,’ says Telford, who is as dedicated to her followers as they are to her. Whilst she’s on very first-name phrases with her longtime shoppers, just about every time a new 1 purchases a piece from her web-site, right before shipping it, she telephones them to check they’ve picked the correct size. When a style flaw meant a costume pale in the wash, she refunded every person and known as them to reveal how to assure the colour stuck: ‘I experienced to in purchase to slumber perfectly at night.’ 

Currently being able to snooze effectively is also why Telford operates her organization responsibly, from plastic-totally free packaging to producing patchwork dresses out of leftover material. ‘I’ve got young kids so I will need to feel about the earth.’ She pays above minimal wages to brands and provides monetary assist to individuals she can – even eschewing profit to do so. ‘Kemi Telford is about executing the right issue, it is not about gain. Serving to people provides me joy.’ 

And us, much too. From her smile-inducing dresses to her big-hearted brand, Yvonne Telford is acquiring a fantastic time – and she’s generating positive all people else is as very well.


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