E: I’m not entirely sure to be honest with you. I just remember my mum buying me fabric and taking me to our tailors, where I roughly sketched out a pair of culottes and a crop top. I remember being so excited when they were done and wearing the outfit until I’d grown out of it.
As I grew up, I was interested in a lot of different things and the more I learnt about fashion and the industry, the more I realized that it was something I enjoyed. I loved the fact that it let me be creative as well as dabble in my other interests.
Plus, I love the idea that just putting on a good look can change the way your day goes.Your brand name resembles the merger of elements…
E: The name sums up the two types of women CocoLili represents. Coco, who is mature and confident, and Lili who is youthful, adventurous and just starting out.
You describe your creation as “each garment is handcrafted from quality materials”, which materials are you referring to?
E: We are referring to the fabrics. When we are selecting fabrics we try to get fabrics that have a lovely hand, are breathable, durable and will flatter our customer. We also focus on fabrics and styles that can easily be dressed up and down.
We try as much as possible to source everything from within the continent. However, one of the challenges we have faced is identifying quality digital printers within the continent who can work on various fabric types. So currently we source our fabrics from within the continent for fabrics that are easily accessible such as cotton and externally for fabrics such as silk and rayon.You also make your own prints?
E: We start with an inspiration, which we use to form the basis of our design brief, which we then send to a textile designer. Then there’s some back and forth on both ends until we have finalized the print(s). I then rescale, recolour and sometimes tweak the repeat depending on what we are using them on.The logo says Dar es Salaam but you post under the #madeinkenya banner….
E: We wanted it to be obvious that CocoLili is an East African brand and since our director is actually part Tanzanian/Kenyan we thought it made the most sense at the time to find a way to reflect this East African identity. Our production is primarily done in Kenya hence the #madeinKenya banner. Currently the majority of the CocoLili team works remotely with the core team based in multiple locations in East Africa.How has that affected you brand?
E: So far it has not affected our brand. In fact it is positive as it epitomizes the global economy in which we currently live. We can have a first class brand with key players in various locations on the continent making CocoLili a truly African brand.
So where does the production happen?
E: The CocoLili team is spread throughout the continent so we work remotely. However, presently the majority of the initial design stages take place in Kampala, while majority of our production currently takes place in Nairobi.How can we get our hands on our very own CocoLili merch?
E: We are in the process of gearing up for our soft launch scheduled for early October. We will also be doing trunk shows towards the end of this year and beginning of next year in Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. We are finalizing our website and some of our products will be available online and people can pre-order our products starting as early as mid-August.It seems to focus on simplicity and comfort… how you would define the brand’s style?
E: CocoLili is all about classic timeless pieces combined with vibrant prints. We want to offer our customers comfortable, simplistic pieces that they can easily dress up or down and can easily go from day to night.
Who is targeting?
E: We are targeting professionals, entrepreneurs and, mothers. Basically, women who are great at multitasking and lead very busy lives. The CocoLili woman is confident, bold and not afraid to speak their mind. The CocoLili woman means business, yet at the same time she is conscience of her femininity and has a desire to remain sophisticated and elegant.Why have you chosen to specifically cater for the curvaceous woman?
E: The CocoLili brand specifically caters for the curvaceous woman with a ‘pear’ shape. We felt that there was a gap in the market for this type of woman. If you’re a curvaceous woman, it’s hard to find brands that are designing specifically for you, which can make the shopping process, frustrating. So CocoLili is trying to fill this gap by catering for the ‘pear’ shape.
What size do you go up to and how does your style, form, and detail differ from say a size 8uk?
E: We currently go up to an XL, which is equivalent to UK 18. We’ve basically added to the hip and lower hip measurements so that our dresses and bottoms fit better.What has an impact on your price range?
E: Our price range is between $65-$250 depending on the fabric and style. Because we design our own prints and then get them printed specifically for us. Our prints are only available from CocoLili and our customers won’t be able to find them anywhere else. We also carry a limited amount of pieces for a limited amount of time. We’re offering our customers an alternative to kitenge and classic pieces that they’ll be able to wear over a long period of time.
There is the collection series that you’re running on social media… the basic collection… you say it’s available all year round?
E: Our Basic Collection is our collection that has all the staple items a working woman needs in her closest. It will be available every year in various prints and colours and over time we will alter it depending on our customers needs. Our customers will always be able to shop a variation of our Basic collection as it consists of 10 pieces (sleeveless top, short sleeve blouse, long sleeve blouse, classic shirt, pencil skirt, midi skirt, sleeveless dress, ¾ sleeve dress, trousers and jacket).Then there is Mélange … is that the new collection?
E: We currently have a couple of collections were working on simultaneously and Mélange is just one of them. Mélange means “mixture” in French, which suits the collection beautifully because the collection is a rappel of the collections that come before it.
What can we look forward to from the brand? Any new projects in the works?
E: We are currently working on two collections that we will be releasing next year. We love collaborating and are always looking for graphic and textile designers who would like to work with us. But in the meantime, expect lots of colour, prints and a new take on simple classics.
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