Tina Lobondi, the Congolese born [DRC], London based designer has built her fashion business, over a decade, on understanding who her customer is. As she says often in this interview, her customer is a strong, feminine woman.
Tina is just coming off of her show at We Are Africa Fashion Extravaganza in the Maboneng area in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tina was among a select group of designers from across the continent to celebrate the style, design and heritage of the African continent as part of the Africa Month program organized by the Department of Arts & Culture.
This award winning designer shares images of her recent collection and talks about her connection with her audience.
Tina, what was the road traveled from your birthplace, Congo, Africa to London and how did you get started in the fashion industry?
I went from Kinshasa to Paris. I grew up in France and moved alone to London when I was 19. I studied fashion in France and London because I wanted to see if there was a difference. I started my brand by being a dressmaker and creating one off pieces.
Who are your consumers, what is their profile? Are they primarily European based or is your reach global and inclusive of African consumers?
My consumers are women across the globe. She is strong and feminine.
If it is important to reach an international fashion consumer, how do your collections maintain its African cultural heritage while adapting to western influences?
My collections are very eclectic. I believe this is why it attracts my clientele. I was brought up in Africa and Europe so I guess this has a big impact on the influences in my work.
As an African designer based in London, do you feel you have certain advantages that you would not have if you were based in Africa?
No, being in London doesn’t give us more advantages. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa have the best designers of the African continent.
Exposure is the key in building brand awareness. A fashion business has many options of exposure. What are some of the platforms to showcase your work and which is the most beneficial – fashion shows; trade shows; product positioning; media; etc?
I would say that it depends on your marketing strategy. But all these platforms need to be considered to find out where your target market is.
Product placement on celebrities is any designer’s wish or can be seen as the ultimate means of exposure. A-list celebrities are seen wearing your beautiful designs. How important is this tactic to your branding and marketing plan compared to other avenues of exposure?
Having celebrities wearing my products is always a good thing. Customers like to identify themselves to the people they admire and so do I. I have been lucky to dress incredible strong black women.
At the end of the day when you have put in a lot of hours, when the pressure of the deadlines are immense, what keeps your drive for this business going? What makes you feel celebratory?
My friends and family keeps me motivated, especially my best friend. She always has the right words.
Congratulations, Tina Lobondi! EDGE and the global community wish you continued success!
All images courtesy of Tina Lobondi.
Video source: You Tube | World Fashion Forum Paris 2014 | Tina Lobondi Nominated Fashion Week Designer
Click on EDGE Out of Africa for more on ‘Africa as an emerging fashion market’ series.