Female Founder: Emefa Kuadey, Creative Director, israella KOBLA

Emefa at work in her design studio in Toronto.

The current landscape in the fashion industry has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped Emefa Kuadey, a British-born Ghanaian designer based in Toronto, from running her own fashion brand, israella KOBLA. We’d like to thank Emefa for her generous donation of a gorgeous handbag from her collection, for the top three fundraisers for our Walk-A-Thon on August 30th. Read on to learn more about Emefa and her business.

Sometimes, a business can start by learning a new skill. For Emefa, it was learning how to sew: “Ever since I learned how to sew, about 8 years ago, I’ve wanted to have a fashion brand. I originally thought it would be years down the line, but my stars aligned and I jumped at the opportunity to launch israella KOBLA in July 2019. Sometimes it’s hard to find clothing that speaks to a fusion of various aesthetics, so it was nice to be able to provide that to women like me.” 

When came the time to give a name for her company, Emefa opted for something close to her heart and deeply personal:  “Israella is my middle name, and Kobla was my late brother’s middle name. My company is dedicated to his memory because I started learning how to sew as a distraction after he passed away. I thought it was a nice way to keep us bonded.” 

As a fashion designer, a day in the life for Emefa varies from day to day, as she tackles a variety of tasks: “this past week I had a custom suit order to work on, an Instagram live takeover, and a photoshoot to prepare for. Most days I have orders to work on, that’s probably the most constant daily task. I’ll either be drafting, cutting fabric, or sewing, depending on what stage of the production process I’m at.”

The Pinnacle handbag, a donation from her collection for one lucky Walk-A-Thon winner.

As her experience in the fashion industry grows, Emefa has some wise words of advice for anyone willing to step into the business of making luxury clothes. She believes being highly self-motivated as well as assertive are important traits for anyone who wants to run their own brand, especially for those who wish to seek out brand recognition opportunities. 

In order to avoid the overwhelming nature of running one’s own business, Emefa advises having good time management skills. She also stresses the importance of having a full grasp on the financial side of starting a business: “I think a lot of fashion entrepreneurs put off mastering the business side of the industry until it’s forced upon us or too late.” Lastly, it’s so easy to get lost in the sea of thousands of fashion brands. She recommends finding what sets yourself apart from the others. 

What makes her designs unique? She uses her background in engineering to create highly structured and minimalist designs.  “I take a very hands-on approach to the creative process and I think that the systematic way of problem-solving is something I learned from being an engineer,” she explains. “I currently do all of the pattern drafting and sewing of each piece and I’m constantly trying to figure out the most effective methods. I think my background as an engineer and my appreciation for modern architecture is also evident in my aesthetic. I like to see a lot of structure in my clothing and you’ll often find clean, defined lines throughout my collections. This is also reflected in the prints I occasionally use in my pieces.”

Emefa applies her minimalist philosophy to the fashion consumer market in the hopes of creating a more sustainable business model: “I think one of the big takeaways from the ongoing pandemic has been that we all need to work a lot harder at becoming intentional consumers. We can shop less often and buy high-quality, made to last, durable clothing instead of entertaining the world of fast fashion. I think that is the essence of minimalism in the fashion industry, buy less, and buy better.” 

To avoid overproduction and to offer her clients a custom fit luxury service, she operates on a made-to-order basis. To grow her business, Emefa plans on hosting pop-up shops where “existing and potential customers can get to know the new collection and get an opportunity to try on our samples and familiarize themselves with our sizing.” 

The businesswoman life does come with hardships, but they are easily overcome with the many positives that eventually come your way. For Emefa, the challenge is in navigating the unknown, not knowing what the future holds for her. However, to see people spend their hard-earned money on her designs is a satisfying reward for her: As a creative, my work is very personal to me, so knowing that someone has an appreciation for it is always extremely heartwarming.”

To learn more about her designs and creative process, check out her site, 

www.israellakobla.com and on IG @israellakobla. 

(images by Dann Tardif)



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