Launching on April 4th, 2021, the Diasporadic Series 01: KaliXSade collection, in collab with artist Sade Alexis of Vancouver, is being hailed as a “natural expansion of Kali Works’ pan-African ethos.” We chatted with Kali co-founder Alex Dingiria about the range, and plans for future partnerships with Canadian creatives. —Vita Daily
Hi Alex! Please tell us a bit about yourself and Kali Works to start.
I’m Alex Dingiria, co-founder of Kali Works with my girlfriend/partner Lindy. We are immigrants of African origin (Alex-Kenya, Lindy-Botswana) who met in Vancouver. We started Kali Works in Vancouver in 2019 because we felt African or afrocentric fashion options were severely lacking in the city. With Kali Works, Lindy and I not only wanted to bring our take of African fashion, but to fully lean into our ‘Africanness’ when doing so, embracing bold styles from all over the continent. We work with makers from all over Africa to engage in their/our shared histories, our current affairs, and future aspirations for all our pieces. This is why we refer to ourselves as Canada’s premier pan-African boutique, as we sell both “traditional” and modern African fashion made in a variety of locations.
Your latest launch is the Diasporadic Series 01: KaliXSade collection; what is it, what inspired it and who did you collaborate with?
Until The Diasporadic Series, all our products have been made in Africa. As with any brand when starting out, we had to do a lot of leg work and be present in as many places as possible in Vancouver to get our name out there. Because the boldness and uniqueness of our African products can be polarizing to some, we found that the biggest success came through events and venues that were organized by other Black people. In Vancouver we particularly met a lot of Black women who are community leaders, who saw what we’re trying to achieve as a culture-focused brand, and thus shared their community spaces with us. As African immigrants, we recognize that we share in the Canadian Black experience regardless of our place of origin. These interactions really gave credence and access to our work as we built our credibility and repertoire as the place to get your Afrocentric fashion statement. This is what inspired the Diasporadic Series, which will be focused on our collaborations with Black peoples not in Africa. Given our experiences we knew it was a matter of time before we explored local talent (in Canada). Just before we departed Vancouver for Montreal (December 2020) we commissioned Vancouver artist Sade Alexis to work on this design with us, hence the collaboration’s name, KaliXSade as Diasporadic Series 01. The character we developed is an amalgamation of the storytellers and cultural workers Kali Works have been privileged to meet. The character is yet-to-be-named, and much of her personality is yet to be revealed because the character we created is still evolving, similarly to Kali Works at this time.
What does the collection aim to represent/highlight? Why is this such an important/timely launch?
We think this collection represents common linkages and experiences among black people, as being Black often means we have eerily similar experiences regardless of place of origin. As Black people in the diaspora, this collaboration underlines Kali Works’ pan-African principle. It’s also a timely shoutout to our “hometown” of Vancouver, which is why we wanted to work with a Vancouver artist to realize this design. The clothing is Canadian-sourced and produced in Montreal (our new home), which continues our principle of respecting the locality of our products’ origin, which we prioritize with our African-made products. In my experience (as a man, of course) and my discussions with Lindy and other women, I recognize that Black women are often the subjects of highly traumatic, negative news cycles. We want to contribute to the positive experiences of Black women by drawing from our own affirming experiences through this collaboration.
Do you see this collection being extended as a series? Who would you like to collaborate with next?!
Yes, the goal is to extend the series with varying themes, a couple of which we’re fleshing out. There are many, many talented artists in the diaspora that we’d love to work with, it all depends on how we can best align. At the end, we want the Diasporadic Series to be an artistic storytelling platform for the Black experience outside of Africa which supports our pan-African goals.