A swirling contrast of purples, pinks and oranges reminiscent of an abstract piece of art is perhaps the best way I can describe the Gaia dress. Curve-hugging and vibrant, it was hard not to stop and admire KAI Collective’s It-item whenever it popped up on my timeline and explore page this summer.
Founded by London-based womenswear designer Fisayo Longe in 2016, KAI Collective has grown into a brand worn by the likes of Saweetie, Nigerian media personality Temi Otedola as well as YouTube influencers like Jackie Aina and Patricia Bright. Though only 4 years old, the brand has been featured on Beyonce’s list of Black-owned businesses to support released at the height of the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement and has been on Elle’s emerging brands to watch list.
Known for selling out within minutes, the brand has won the hearts of the Internet with its coveted mesh pieces, worn by all genders and sizes as seen by the brand’s Instagram feed. Though a relatively small brand, the company prioritizes inclusivity, with each item available in a variety of sizes, from XXS to XXXL.
KAI additionally creates with environmental and social-sustainability in mind. Longe collaborates with fellow Nigerian and female business owner Adebusola Adetona on material sourcing. Adentona’s textile company, Grapes Patterns Bank, creates the prints so loved by fans of the brand. Regarding her company’s creative process Adetona said in an interview in 2018 “I really wanted to create variety regarding the patterns. With the customized prints, I work with the designers’ mood board and colour palette and I sometimes put in a little of my own interpretation.”
Longe makes use of every inch of the carefully thought-out textile supplied to her. As written on the website: “to save 40% of fabric which would otherwise be wasted, we have chosen not to use placement print which means that each dress will have a different print pattern. This is a move to be more sustainable but we also think that it keeps the dress super fun.”
Ultimately, KAI Collective intends to instil confidence in its wearers. As stated by Longe to WWW, KAI is about community and female agency as much as it is about a pretty dress, “women, especially where I come from, are not raised with enough self-assurance and confidence. I am passionate about women discovering and reclaiming our power and importance. I wanted to build a brand that enables that through what I know — fashion and beautiful clothing.”