Black women in 2016 are focused on celebrating one another. From curating spaces for black women, winning pounds of gold medals at the Olympics, and creating brands that are unapologetically black and furiously feminine, black women are shifting society in ways that no one has seen before.
In the city of Chicago, this mission of celebration reigns high and true for designer Imani Kutti. With an Ivory Coast background, she’s crafted an entire brand inspired by her roots. Kente patterns have joined contemporary styles to create Ivory Kutts.
Off-Kilter: Where are you from? Did your hometown aid in your artistic growth?
Imani Kutti: I’m from Chicago but I consider myself to be from the Ivory Coast due to my background. However, I am influenced by both locations. Chicago is my inspiration for more of the street style, free, and eccentric kind of fashion. Ivory Coast has influenced me with its pattern, detailed sewing, and culture of fashion.
OK: When did you begin to explore art and it’s mediums? Where you originally attracted to fashion design or something different?
IK: I started exploring art when I was in 6th grade. I was so sure I was going to be a drawing artist lol. I used to draw anime and put it up on my wall when I was done. With due time, I started exploring fashion and it’s different layers. I found love in modeling and envisioned my own shoots.
OK: Has the social media/ digital era allowed you to experience art/fashion in a different way?
IK: I think social media has influenced a lot of different sectors of art, from music to painting. It allows you to experience everyone’s art much more easily and provides inspiration. The con is people’s opinions. If I was the type to be easily influenced by what people said and did, it could hurt how me take in more instead of releasing more.
OK: In your opinion, what is the true role of a designer?
IK: The true role of a designer is to stay true to themselves and their vision, no matter what. That’s how you create innovative designs. Just piggybacking off what I said earlier, you can’t let anybody else’s opinion effect the way you run things.
OK: When did this particular style you work with emerge?
IK: I feel like the style I work with has been here since damn near the beginning of time. My grandmothers and their grandmothers explored the beauty of kente clothe, silk, and Indian silk, but I want to bring more of a modern touch to it.
OK: Why did you decide to create IvoryKutts?
IvoryKutts has become my creative outlet. I’m always having these ideas in my head of what something looks like or how something is made and now I can do it on my own. I needed something to help me grow and express myself.
OK: How do you go about creating? Explain your creative process?
IK: When it comes to creating, it’s a process that in the end is all worth it. Making clothes aren’t a one step process, sometimes I can spend two days just to make one outfit. I want to put my own personal touch and street style to the art of African wear. I always have designs in my head just waiting to be manifested. I cut and sew, and make sure pieces are measured right then sew according to the style.
OK: Do you have an end goal with Ivory Kutts? Or is it a wonderful hobby?
IK: My end goal is to build this brand with every drop of sweat in my body LOL! I want this to make women everywhere feel beautiful, with pieces they won’t find down the street. I wanna keep it unique and eventually work with all kinds of different fabric.
OK: Do you have anything else you would like to say to fellow artists?
IK: I would love to say “stick to your goal” as cliche as that sounds, it’s true. It’s been so many times I wanted to up and quit, so many times I was broke wondering how id pay to get a piece done, so many times I literally broke down in the shop when I couldn’t sew it right. But it’s about passion! That passion will be the gas to the car lol.
Follow Imani Kutts on Instagram and stay up to date with new releases from the brand.