FREDERICTON – Maybe it’s been written in the stars that Emmanuel Nizeyimana Bishop from Rwanda, Nshim Jesus from Burundi and Amani Kamondo from Congo would meet in a small Canadian city. But the friends decided to take the opportunity to create something meaningful together.
Bishop, Kamondo and Jesus launched Author’s Collection in June after making clothes for the fashion line all winter. Kamondo, a former refugee from Congo, met Bishop, an international student, when they studied together at NBCC. They shared an apartment with Jesus, who was studying at the Atlantic Business College.
“When we were finishing up our studies, we saw that it’s not easy for graduates to immediately get a job in their field of study, so we said let’s do something to keep us busy in the meantime,” Bishop said.
Kamondo and Bishop graduated just two weeks ago, while Jesus completed his studies last year. They all work full-time now, but they wanted a project that contributes something to the community. Being newcomers and seeing the province of New Brunswick making a push to welcome immigrants, they launched a clothing line that relates to that.
“We came up with the idea of bridging the gap in clothing and also in culture, that’s how Author’s Collection came. The name Author’s means we want to tell our stories but through fashion,” he said.
Author’s Collection makes button-down shirts, bomber jackets and t-shirts using the colourful Kitenge fabric, which can be found in Eastern Africa, Central Africa and Western Africa, as well as the Ghanaian Kente fabric. It also uses some fabrics bought locally, and sells harem pants imported from abroad.
Soon, Bishop, Jesus and Kamondo want to begin selling bow ties and apparel for women and children as well.
“We’re trying to include everyone from kids to elders, using our fabric. The fabric we use can make anything as long as we have a nice design and our sewing guy.”
The group wants to bring diversity to fashion in the region, with hopes to open a store in the future. They aim to, one day, open shops across New Brunswick and create jobs.
“Back home, when we go for prom or other occasions, [the kitenge prints] are the fabrics you normally go for. When you came here, you’re lacking that aspect,” Bishop said.
“That’s our aim in the near future so that people who want to come and grab a bow tie for occasions, grab a different style of clothing. People want to express themselves. We have seen that people from all over the world love the fabric.”
Bishop and his fellow co-founders feel confident about their business idea after seeing the work of Design From Africa in Moncton. Design From Africa blends African prints with casual Western clothing and accessories like hoodies, toques and t-shirts, among others.
“It’s working. People really appreciate other cultures. [Design From Africa] are among people that gave us some hints and some boost in confidence,” Bishop said.
“When we saw [the announcement for the Garrison market], we said this is our opportunity now,” Bishop said.
For the rest of the summer, Author’s Collection will be looking for more events and locations to set up their pop-up booth around the Maritimes. While customers can make orders via e-mail or Facebook, the company will only open its online shop in September.
“We have one guy now [making the shirts]. With our booth, we sold a lot of stuff. So it’s a lot of pressure for one guy to produce 15 shirts in a week. He has a full-time job, too,” Bishop said.
The team is now looking for a tailor with the same vision to help Kamondo.
“We cannot make the business our full-time jobs for now because we are at the start. But we are optimistic,” he added. “We are here so far, people have shown support.”