Kinabuti: African-Inspired Fashion That Bolsters Nigerian Communities

Kinabuti, Nigeria, fair trade, fair-trade fashion, fair-trade clothing, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Africa


Kinabuti was named for Bortolussi’s inability to pronounce her own name as a toddler—”Kina” for “Caterina” and “Buti” for “Bortolussi.” The same dichotomy is reflected in the label’s bifurcated approach: Kinabuti Wardrobe, the fashion line itself, and the non-profit Kinabuti Lab, which provides Nigerian youth with vocational education and training.

Kinabuti was named for Bortolussi’s inability to pronounce her own name as a toddler—”Kina” for “Caterina” and “Buti” for “Bortolussi.”

For her debut collection, Bortolussi borrowed cues from Lady Oscar, a 1979 film based on the Japanese manga The Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda. From the gender-bending tale of “a girl raised as a man, torn between class loyalty and her desire to help the impoverished,” Bortolussi distilled the essence of a “very beautiful woman dressed as a chevalier; strength and confidence intertwined with femininity,” she tells Ecouterre.

The designer shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to staging In the Ghetto with a photo exhibit by Massimo Sciacca in London during Africa Fashion Week, Bortolussi plans to train local tailors in skills like draping, dressmaking, and fabric development.

But just as important as creating jobs, Bortolussi believes Nigerians need to embrace Nigerian-made products rather than imports. “We need to create the capacity for manufacturing and development,” she says. “It’ll take time but fashion is my passion, so I want to make it an industry.”

+ Kinabuti

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