American fashion designer to partake in African Fashion Week in D.C.

Claire Kean

American Fashion Designer Claire Kean.

By Ed Arthur

Claire Kean, an apparel, merchandising and design major at Iowa State University, has recently gained publicity in the fashion world after garments from her clothing line, “Kranto Kolection,” a company that designs traditional West African garments, were displayed at an African fashion show in Texas. Now that the African Fashion Week is set to transpire in Washington, D.C. on March 21st, Kean’s clothing line is set to draw more attention on the runway.

African Fashion Week will showcase Africa’s sartorial culture from the artistic perspectives of many emerging designers—including Kranto Kolection. The event will also feature vendors, entertainers, art and businesses through a series of events and shows. African Fashion Week will be held at the Washington Post Conference Center and will be followed by an after-party at the Stone Fish Lounge.

Kean credits her fiance Webster Kranto, after whom her clothing line is named, and his family for for inspiring her vision: “Through knowing him and his family and being close to them, I realized there’s part of the market that really wasn’t being satisfied so much,” she said. Kranto, who is a West African native, helped Kean gain insight into the manufacturing of West African garments: “I know people are doing similar things on a small scale, but the scale I want to do it on is hard to find, as far as finding garments mass-produced,” she said. Kean and Kranto are planning to marry in August after the former graduates in May.

Since African Fashion Week will mainly showcase flamboyant garments intended for African women between ages 18 to 35, Kean considers Kranto Kolection to be a good fit for the event: “They still want to represent the culture through the fabric I’m using, but also still be stylish according to what’s stylish in the U.S. right now,” she said.

Kranto Kolection uses wax prints, a fabric that retains high amounts of dye, to render its garments as colorful as possible. Kean, who discovered wax prints during an internship in Ghana, was so captivated with the fabric’s colorful properties that she even went as far as saying that it “makes all colors in the U.S. look dull.”

Kranto Kolection’s design was influenced by the sartorial tastes of West African women interviewed by Kean during her internship in Ghana. Kean discovered that feminine clothing in West Africa strives for a “really feminine look” that emphasizes the hourglass figure and has since tailored her designs to fit such look.

Kean is fairly optimistic about Kranto Kolection’s potential. As she interns for clothing giant Abercrombie and Fitch this summer, she will also devote part of her time and energy to diversify her clothing line’s target market: “We want to eventually start making menswear and children’s,” she said, adding, “it’s unique and there is a demand for it.” Kranto Kolection will soon launch a website to reach markets across the globe.

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