One To Watch: Awa Kaday
Adi: Hi Awa! I hope all has been well with you, I’m so excited to discuss Black in Time and how it relates to some of the events happening in the world today. To jump in, why was Black in Time important to you to showcase at FIT?
Awa: It’s essential because, attending a predominantly white institution at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I feel underrepresented as a whole on campus. Becoming the Black Student Union’s president, my first mission was; how are we bringing the culture to this school and how are we forming communities along the way? Not only through FIT but also neighboring schools including other SUNY and CUNY partners. Black in Time was a safe space for our people to not only learn about our history but to sit back and embrace what we’ve done. All we’ve been taught is our history of the enslavement of being oppressed. Changing the narrative to showcase our culture was vital to showcase that we are no longer oppressed.
Adi: The importance of celebrating the communities accomplishments is so beautiful as well. If this exhibit were to be done in 20 years, what kind of fashion, music, art, or culture would you hope to be showcased?
Awa: Some of the stories I would love to see are those within A.I. and tech. There’s a lot of us within that field that we forget about, and I would also love to expand on Africa as a continent. We tend to forget too how rich and beautiful it is. I would love to see those advances in another installation while still honoring the original intent of the exhibit.
Adi: How do you feel about activism in fashion? Do you see it as a trend or do you think that this is a moment that brands will actually be responsible with their values?
Awa: I believe in both. Black people historically come up as a trend in culture, there was a time being African wasn’t cool and Burner Boy wasn’t the hottest artist out, but it also is important to take this time to have deeper conversations. I myself had to stand up to my first beauty campaign in which I wasn’t represented and. Even though it may have messed up a future brand deal with them I didn’t care because my morals and my integrity told me to say, as your darkest model, how are you showing up for this community? Holding these brands accountable is what needs to happen in a time like this, and the energy should be kept.
Adi: Exactly, the power of social media in that it’s empowered consumers to demand transparency beyond a black square post will hopefully keep encouraging the conversation. Perhaps this time will serve as a benchmark for one, two, five, or ten years from now.
Awa: Right. The brands who I felt should’ve been at the forefront of this movement were the ones who messed up along the way. This is the opportunity to speak up and be loud. The companies and institutions that have messed up with money and influence.
Adi: How do you think people can support Black-owned businesses now and how can businesses get in touch with emerging Black talent?
Awa: As an influencer, tackling this algorithm is an important step in exposing smaller brands or people with a smaller following, but support in ways that you know how, and do your research! Dig further than the top companies you find in your google search. Also, donating to petitions and funds, and looking at the integrity of the brand you purchase from rather than just shopping due to convenience.
Adi: Agreed, it’s such an easy way to support when you know exactly where your dollar is going and how it’s making an impact. And speaking of which, tell us about Kaday.Ko!
Awa: So, Kaday.Ko is a brand that started by the name of Awa by Kaday, which was originally going to be a fragrance line. As we got closer to the launch of the product an accident happened this time last year, and I wasn’t able to operate the line. I made a vow to myself then that by the time next year rolls around for my birthday, I would be ready to launch. I reached out to the Cosmetics Fragrance and Marketing department at FIT, along with the chairmen and students and alumni of the program, and industry professionals for advice. I made the goal of launching on July 26th which was the same day as my accident, but I also didn’t want to rush something like a fragrance. I always have had a deep passion for fashion and am getting ready to launch a Summer Capsule for 7/26. It’s going to launch as a line of 70 items including graphics celebrating the African diaspora.
Adi: That’s so exciting! So will this capsule be clothes that you’ll be designing or a vintage curation?
Awa: So this will be clothes that I’m designing myself but as we create more capsules we will be venturing into vintage pieces as well.As a dedicated thrifter, whichever item you pick up from my vintage collection will feel like something that has been truly curated. I’m not big on fast fashion, I love the originality and sustainable aspect of clothing.
Adi: I can’t wait! It’s so powerful to be releasing this a year after what you’ve been through. I’m so proud!!
Awa: It was definitely hard this past year especially with all of the projects and maintaining schoolwork, but ultimately I’m proud to have done something for the community.
Adi: And that something was huge! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, I know you’re going to a protest today. Be safe, be well, I miss you!
By Adi Shoham