Laëtitia ‘Titia’ Kandolo isn’t your average 20-something. She isn’t just a talented stylist and art director, but one that has had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s biggest artists to date. Nothing to fancy, just the likes of Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga; to mention a few. If that isn’t already impressive, she’s also worked with strongly respected publications such as Vogue, Ghubar and WAD.
Born and bred in Paris, this artist of Congolese origin started on this star-studded career at the age of 17 years. At that time, she found fashion fascinating for its ability to tell stories through clothes. She first went to Mod’Art, before she enrolled in the prestigious Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (ESMOD) to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Business. But it didn’t truly start for her until she was 19 years old. While still in school, she began making a name for herself as a stylist assistant. And from there the trajectory of progress sounds like something out of a fairy-tale.
In 2011, she got the opportunity to be part of Black Eyed Peas’ “THE END” TOUR as the second stylist assistant designated to Fergie. That tour introduced her to an agent and by 2012 she was signed to their agency. Nevertheless, she was began freelancing as well, and managed to rack in clients such as Sony Music, Universal Music, celebrities and media heavyweights such as Conde Nast and Vogue Turkey. While many may call her lucky, she accredits her accomplishments thus far to determination, passion, organisation and sacrifices. Another characteristic she says is necessary to thrive in this industry is the ability to be discreet. Big names value trustworthiness as much as competent fashion skills; if not more.
Then she set out to create her own magic…
After a period of self-reflection, Titia recognised two things about her career. The first being, she discovered that she always added a touch of African to her work. Secondly, albeit the widespread success she had experienced in her career so far, she was developing other people’s dreams and visions. Interestingly, creating a ready-to-wear brand was the reason she joined fashion school in the first place. After years of working with other brands, she was able to return to her original passion and roots. It’s in her hometown in DRC that she decided to set up her own clothing brand. By the end of 2014, UCHAWI was launched.
Being produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), isn’t the only way UCHAWI shows that it’s a proudly ‘made in Congo’ brand. Titia wanted to add an educational approach to the brand. Hence, the collaboration with Congolese styling school, ISAM (Insitut Superieur des Arts et Metiers), to co-produce the clothing brand. In a country plagued with a difficult history and infrastructural issues, job opportunities can be difficult to come by. Hence her mission to help develop the local textile-making industry, empower women through employment chances, as well as, grow a sense of pride for products made locally.
In an interview with Design Indaba she elaborated, “We have a close relationship with a fashion school there so we can create jobs once they are out, to show them that the fashion industry is bigger than they think…it’s not just clothes for me but employment, this is the main problem in Africa. We need more infrastructure not charity.”
What’s next for Titia?
Once personalities know your name and you have a brand to your name, what possibly could Titia aim for? According to an interview with Into The Chic, she hopes to explore other fields in the arts. One such project would be to work on costumes/wardrobe for upcoming African movies. She also has the desire to create an ‘artists’ space’ where a mixture of creatives from different fields can connect and develop projects. Additionally, she’s been taking her time to perfect the third collection under UCHAWI; set to be released this year.
Titia has been able to achieve more in a short period of time, than most artists are able to achieve over their entire career. Not only does she wear the hat of stylist, she’s also artistic director, entrepreneur and designer. Granted some magic may have been involved, there’s definitely a level of professionalism and creativity that has propelled her this far. Moreover, the fact that she carries herself in a manner that makes you forget just how young she is and makes that number irrelevant. We’ll leave you with a behind-the-scenes video of her styling project for Fally Ipupa’s 2017 album, “Tokooos”.