CAVEN ETOMI is an international fashion Company founded in 2013. Their goal is to offer an innovative product assortment, designed for various target markets, which currently comprises of the KINGDOM brand.
KINGDOM is an international street wear brand founded in 2013. The brand designs and develops luxury street wear apparel, inspired by African heritage, culture and art. The aim of the KINGDOM brand is to share a piece of Africa with its consumers around the world, and to provide access to modern street wear apparel that conveys an aura of empowerment and African royalty.
That just about summarizes everything the brand Caven Etomi stands for but we know there’s more to come given the remarkable fashion history of its founders Doreen, Joan and Oseyi. We want to know more and are hoping this interview reveals just that!
HFA: Who are Caven Etomi?
CE: Caven Etomi is made up of three friends: Joan & Doreen Caven who are sisters, and Oseyi Etomi. We have been friends since high school. We came together and formed our brand made out of both our last names.
HFA: We know that you forayed into fashion a while ago, way before there was the Kingdom brand, there was 4 Aces (a lifestyle brand) and before that Cranberry. Can you tell us about transitioning through these different facets prior to the Kingdom brand’s birth?
CE: Well we originally started Cranberry when we were in college. We had always shared a love for fashion and had been altering and customizing our clothes and staging shoots. We attended the Howard homecoming fashion show, which was a really big deal at the time, and that pushed us into finally attempting to make our first collection. We made our first all hand-sewn collection called the “Heather” collection inspired by the movie “The Heathers”… and Cranberry was born!
Fashionista & Creative Director, Chalya Shagaya in a Heather Collection Cranberry Piece.
We were so young and adorable; our greatest goal was to show at the Howard fashion show, which we did the next year. Cranberry was an amazing learning experience for us… we didn’t expect people to be as receptive as they were; we were receiving orders and we didn’t even know how to use a sewing machine!
All three of us were pre-med students and soon school demands took over and Cranberry was set aside while we completed our degrees. Even though we were no longer actively working on Cranberry, we continued to dabble in fashion and shooting videos and staging shoots with our friend and Ozzy’s cousin Abby.
We had opened a blog for Cranberry that had a strong following but we had stopped updating when we stopped designing, and so somehow one night we decided to open a blog featuring all four of us; and that is how 4aces was born (www.the4Acesdate.com). 4aces originally started as us chronicling our dating experiences in NYC but soon it went in the direction of a fashion and lifestyle blog. At the time we didn’t have a lot of fashion blogs featuring black women or African women, and in short time, we had a large following. People cared about our fashion advice, our articles, the news we curated from around the globe, our stories; it was overwhelming and amazing at the same time.
4aces and Cranberry definitely prepared us for Kingdom; we have learned how to work with each other over the years and we understand each other very well. When we decided to start Kingdom, it wasn’t like starting a new business; more like the destination of the journey that we began many years ago.
HFA: That’s such an amazing journey, especially with keeping your focus on Pre-Med School, while the Fashion Flame burned! Did any of you still try to be formally educated in Fashion?
CE: Ozzy studied fashion at Parsons the New School for Design.
READ: Ozzy’s Solo debut with Nigerian Label, GREY.
HFA: How do your individual styles transcend into designing the Kingdom’s pieces?
CE: Kingdom isn’t really a reflection of our individual styles. Kingdom is a street style brand, and it is more of a reflection of our love for art because it is so art and graphic centric.
HFA: Granted, but trendy tees are very much in line with the growing pop culture of fashion tees that make a statement. How do you intend to keep the brand alive knowing fashion’s short-lived romances with trends?
CE: We decided to launch the Caven Etomi brand with the Kingdom Tees because we identified a gap in the market for African inspired street wear. We wanted to launch with a product that was new and fresh and different to what was already available in the market; and it helped that fashion tees are in season. Our t-shirts have been embraced by both the African market and internationally. We have plans to expand far beyond graphic t-shirts and into a full-fledged clothing & accessories brand as well.
See some shots from their New York Launch Photo booth:
HFA: Who wears the Kingdom brand?
CE: Kingdom appeals to the stylish fashion forward individual. We have had people from all over the world who order our t shirts, and we love it when our customers send us back pictures and feedback. Our tees have also been featured on various bloggers and celebrities such as Angela Simmons, Folake Huntoon of Style Pantry, Dani Song, Dawn from Danity Kane, Ice Prince Zamani, Lynxx, D’banj, Adrienne Bailon, to name a few:
HFA: …and what will you say is your approach to design?
CE: We all have a hand in designing; we like to keep it really organic and fluid from inspiration to final product. If it doesn’t feel right, we won’t release it. We like for everything to be in sync down to how each particular design is presented and marketed. Our aim is to create a very strong brand identity and culture.
HFA: One can’t help but notice the distinct use of symbolism’s of African culture and rich contrasting colours in your designs… and which is your Best Seller?
CE: That is the ethos of our brand; for so long, the African aesthetic has been established by people who aren’t African, simply based on their own perceptions, and it is up to the new generation of young Africans who are well educated, very cultured and widely travelled to establish our own identities. Our Floral baroque tee is our best seller so far:
HFA: Did you take that into consideration before naming the brand?
CE: Yes. We wanted a name that was strong but also easy to identify. We were very inspired by the Benin Kingdom when we first started designing t shirts and we thought the name KINGDOM by Caven Etomi would be a nice name for a street wear brand.
HFA: What inspired your most recent collection?
CE: Our most recent collection is our African Hairstyles collection which comprises of hand drawn illustrations inspired by the works of the prolific Nigerian photographer J.D ‘Okhai Ojiekere, who has been celebrated worldwide for his “Hairstyles” series, a collection of over 1000+ recorded Nigerian hairstyles that rose to iconic status for their role in documenting a key aspect of femininity:
HFA: Where do you see the African fashion industry and the Kingdom brand in the next five years?
CE: I see incredible growth occurring in the African fashion industry. Where we started from as opposed to where we are now is a testament in itself; we have amazing brands springing up every day and the world has really started to take notice. Kingdom is an international brand with a firm footing in Africa and in the next 5 years we hope to be established and also be stocked at various retailers.
HFA: Kingdom Tees by Caven Etomi is Stocked at?
CE: Right now we have our own e-commerce site www.cavenetomi.com. We are also stocked in the NYLON magazine store and our t shirts will be carried exclusively at Temple Muse in Lagos from the 19th of July 2014, when we launch! All are welcome to join us for the launch:
Tags: Caven Etomi, doreen caven, joan caven, Kingdom Tees, Oseyi Etomi, Temple Muse