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Conversations with Jamila Kesi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamila Kesi.

Hi Jamila, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Creating has always been a happy escape for me. If I wasn’t busy with school I was crafting something by handweaving friendship bracelets, crocheting hats, cutting up thrifted tees, or sketching zines with Baby Phat-inspired outfits. I learned to machine sew when I was 14 after learning basic hand-sewing from my dad – needing to upgrade the crude alteration skills I used on my clothes that rarely fit my thin frame.

I took the science route in college and itched the entire time for a more creative career instead. After graduation, I jumped full force into figuring out who I could be as an artist. I started my entrepreneurial journey making jewelry – beaded bracelets and several styles of chokers as they made a trendy comeback. As people became increasingly interested, I got more serious about developing a fashion business. I began a new venture with my friend in St. Louis called Spitfire Unlimited – a lifestyle clothing brand designing wearable accessories and apparel that fit our tomboy aesthetics. Most of my enjoyment came from creating custom pieces so I started sewing more seriously to expand my offerings and make the ideas in my head readily tangible.

For the past three years, I’ve operated under my namesake brand, Jamila Kesi. My brand DNA comes from the feeling I get from wearing something that only I own and the desire to share that feeling with others. My current focus is providing custom apparel for performing artists and special occasions while offering one-of-one designs for the public crafted from thrifted or recycled fabrics.

Coming from resourceful beginnings, there is a responsibility ingrained in me to utilize what already exists and waste little to nothing in the process.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not at all. Beyond keeping up with the capital and infrastructure for you and your business to survive, nurturing and trusting yourself as an artist and an entrepreneur can be very taxing psychologically. Where creating is already an intimate act, it becomes even more personal when you give your brand your name.

Your failures/successes can become your business’ failures/successes and vice versa. I’ve found that balance can only be achieved for me by knowing myself fully and quieting the ego that suggests I create from fear instead of love.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I pride myself on being a “sustainable” seamstress. Most of my pieces utilize thrifted denim and other recycled fabrics because I truly believe we have enough textile waste on this planet to keep feeding the fashion machine. Even my scraps get used in subsequent projects.

I also believe in functionality and attention to detail. If I can create the most comfortable, practical, professional, and stylish garment for you, with at least half the environmental impact, then I believe I have been successful.

How do you define success?
Freedom to be as I am and use my time and voice as I choose.

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1 Comment

  1. Dennise

    November 21, 2021 at 5:02 am

    Been a Star! Keep shining yo light sis!

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