Growing up in Sierra Leone, Kadiatu Kamara knew little about the fashion industry beyond the dresses hanging in her mother’s closet. But after landing in England, Kamara was discovered and embarked on a modeling career that spanned nearly a decade and included a win as Miss West Africa UK.
During that time, she went on a tour of several African countries, finally landing in her home nation. Inspired by the people she met throughout Sierra Leone on that trip, Kamara decided to resettle there and open a clothing boutique. That first incarnation of Vivid Emporium opened in 2010, featuring a mix of European and African-influenced clothing.
Kamara, a self-taught designer, created much of the merchandise herself, and in the years since, she has produced six collections and five fashion shows. Kamara recently brought her boutique and West African fashions to Chapel Hill, opening a new location of Vivid Emporium on South Merritt Road.
The shop carries Kamara’s designs, as well as those from up-and-coming designers from her home nation. The pieces for both men and women feature brilliant colors and bold patterns in the traditional West African style.
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“I design most of the clothes in my store, but I also work with young designers from Sierra Leone,” she says. “There are a lot of talented young designers back home who simply can’t afford a shop or platform to sell. So I encourage them to produce their pieces, and I carry them in the store.”
Kamara also sources accessories from Mali, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria.
“I want my customers to have a wide variety of options, and I can’t do it all,” she says. “So I work with other designers. It makes me feel good that I’m helping give back.”
Giving back is important to Kamara. In addition to providing a platform for designers in Sierra Leone, she regularly contributes both money and time to causes in her country, such as disaster relief. Though she no longer lives there, it’s important to her to support the community that helped make her dream possible.
“I don’t really like the idea of ‘charities’ so much,” she says. “But it is very important that I use my skills, my experiences, my ideas and my business as a platform to encourage young Sierra Leoneans and Sierra Leonean families to develop their skills in arts and designing so that they can actually contribute to the development of their families.”
This Week in Trunks
Blue’s the word at Belk during a Le Vian jewelry show Sept. 6 at the Crabtree Valley Mall location. Blue gems such as the cornflower Ceylon sapphire and the blueberry sapphire will be on display in rings, bracelets, necklaces and more. For more information, call 919-782-7010.
Saks Fifth Avenue in Triangle Town Center will have new pieces from the Roberto Coin fall collection during a trunk show Sept. 7. New necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more from the Italian designer will be available. To make an appointment, call 919-792-9100.
Score deals on clothing for men and women from J. Crew, Madewell and Crewcuts at the J. Crew fall regional warehouse sale Sept. 7-10 in the Scott Building on the N.C. State Fairgrounds. Some pieces may be samples or second quality, and all sales are final. Credit and debit cards will be accepted – no cash. Sale hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
Kristen’s Shoes and Apparel in Cameron Village is closing. According to a message posted on the store’s Facebook page, owner Kristen Greczyn is closing shop to retire to the coast with her husband. Greczyn opened Kristen’s in Cary and then moved the boutique to Cameron Village in 2014. The store will close in late October. Visit facebook.com/kristensshoeboutique for more updates.