Fisayo Longe, Founder of Kai Collective
Starting a fashion brand can be a tough endeavor given the subjective nature of the industry. Independently doing this and competing with major companies can be even harder and relies on creators and designers being innovative in both their design and how they run their business. One entrepreneur who has managed to build a fashion brand influencing many other designs and managed to grow her brand during the Covid-19 pandemic is Fisayo, founder of Kai Collective.
Fisayo was born in England but spent her childhood in Nigeria. She moved back to the U.K. to finish secondary school and secured a place at university to study law. Unfortunately, she missed her grades but was fortunate enough to land a gap year scheme at KPMG which she accepted. She spent 6 months working at KPMG in her gap year and a few months traveling around Asia which was when she got the inspiration to start her blog based on fashion and travel. She was offered a full-time role at KPMG on her return where she spent 2 years working full-time as an apprentice accountant attending university in the summer holidays.
Whilst working at KPMG she continued working on her blog which further enhanced her interest in fashion. She knew she needed to do something that came more natural to her and that she enjoyed so she took up a short-term contract at Liberty, a London-based fashion brand in merchandising to get further experience in the industry. She then wanted to work on all facets of a fashion business and have more autonomy to create her vision so set up her brand, Kai Collective.
The origins of Kai Collective came from Fisayo’s love for collecting fabric which she discovered on her travels. During a short course at London College Of Fashion, she noticed that many of the clothes they would review would be manufactured in Turkey and the fabric would also be from there. She decided to take a trip to Turkey and there she found wonderful fabrics and sourced a manufacturer. In hindsight she said a much more sensible approach would have been to go to trade shows however, this approach allowed her to explore the origins and environment her clothes would be manufactured in.
With the product and manufacturing sorted Fisayo was ready to launch her store and figured because she was an influencer with over 50k followers marketing would be easier however “it was a real shock when things didn’t take off at first”. It ended up taking many years of launching new products, marketing, and sharing her journey online before Kai Collective had its first “good year” in 2019. Whilst Kai Collective didn’t spend any money on paid marketing this was the year they started to receive a significant amount of press coverage and other influencers started wearing their collections.
Kai Collective Gaia Dress
Gaia Dress & The Future
As good as 2019 was everything changed for Kai Collective in 2020. Fisayo created the ‘Gaia Dress’ and before launching on her store it wore it to an event in January 2020. The online response to a picture from the event she posted on Instagram was overwhelming with many of her followers asking where they could buy it from. Whilst gearing up to launch the dress the Covid pandemic hit in Asia where some of her products were manufactured. This put a hold on launching the product but the queries from customers did not subside.
As most of Asia bounced back from the pandemic her manufacturers made the first batch which she launched in April 2020. They sold out almost immediately and the furor around the brand continued with several press features such as an Elle cover story, various vogue features, and a mention on Beyonce’s directory of Black Owned Everything.
Kai Collective now has a small team but big ambitions with a launch into the U.S. planned for 2022. Whilst Fisayo’s original ambitions were to follow a much more academic route, through perseverance and risk-taking she has found something in Kai Collective that comes much more natural to her and in the long run may well be significantly more lucrative and fulfilling.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyASC91.
The purpose of this blog is to share honest stories of diverse, underrepresented people doing great work which can hopefully inspire others to take action.