Kiran Yoliswa and Alae Ismail
Co-founders of Styled By Africa
Most famous for:
Launching a fashion store that provides a platform for “Made In Africa” designers to attract an international audience including womenswear, menswear and accessories. After winning a a trip to India with Richard Branson and gaining start-up funding from Unltd we managed to grow the number of designers we stocked from four to over 20 within two years. We source brands from over 10 African countries including Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and more and were recently named as one of the “Ultimate Power List of African Fashion 2015” by New African Woman Magazine.
What does being POSSIBLE mean to you?
Alae: It means everything. Coming from a East Africa, I saw first hand the negative impact women had faced by not going to school, being financially dependent on men, and not being able to voice their opinions publicly so I believe that the word “POSSIBLE” is a key driver to breaking social and structural barriers.
Kiran: It means taking ownership of the future I want to have by understanding that the life you live expands in proportion to one’s courage and self belief.
When did you first learn you were POSSIBLE?
Alae: Small pivotal moments have contributed to me believing that I was POSSIBLE but starting Styled By Africa has been the most significant. There have been times when people encourage you to say in your 9-to-5 job because its “safe”, rather than embrace the entrepreneurial route. But, when you believe the work you’re doing is going to make a massive difference to people’s lives in terms of job creation, education and training, then you know that your route is only being POSSIBLE.
Kiran: I’ve been extremely privileged to grow up learning it from my parents who taught me that you must constantly cultivate that feeling of pushing the edges of your personal infinity to remind yourself that you are more POSSIBLE than you could ever imagine.
What/who inspires you to be POSSIBLE?
Alae: Most of my family members came to the UK with not much to their name so being able to see them set up their own businesses has always inspired me to be POSSIBLE and not let others limit me or determine my future.
Kiran: Reflecting on the times that I didn’t think I could, but I did.
What’s the hardest side of being you?
Alae: Trying to manage my time more efficiently and being the most productive I could be.
Kiran: Constantly creating and managing the physical and emotional energy I need to execute vision.
What’s been your biggest challenge to being POSSIBLE?
Alae: When you go on the journey of trying to be POSSIBLE you end up sacrificing a life of stability and comfort and that can be very challenging to deal with.
Kiran: Keeping the lizard brain at bay.
What one thing do you think all women of colour need to know?
Alae: You have a unique story and a beautiful heritage that’s rich in culture. You have the ability to add so much value into other peoples lives once you embrace who you are.
Kiran: You are worthy and to quote Lupita – ‘…your dreams are valid’.
What’s next for you?
After running our online boutique for the past two years, we’ve just opened our first physical shop in Pop Brixton and decided to stay there long-term! We’re expanding our menswear and accessories brands too and increasing the number of countries in Africa we’re sourcing from. We’re very proud to continue to champion African creativity globally and use fashion as a tool for sustainable development. Stay in touch with us on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook using @styledbyafrica.