Designer: Kickeko Goods
I read that in 2011 you traveled to eastern Congo and met a group of leaders who raise 57 children who have been orphaned by the conflict and you went back every summer since, I admire you thinking “ how can I come alongside this work and help them from where I am?” Tell me more about this…
I went to graduate school here at GW in washington which is how I ended up in DC in 2007 – 2009 and in one of my classes it was African World Wars which was a really uplifting class. One summer we had to do this case study and it was kind of random but I just chose Congo and it seemed like it had a storied past and a very interesting history and studying that I became more aware of how beautiful the country is and everything it had to offer when it comes to natural resources. It has a ton, and the people there and everything they have been threw. It stuck with me a little bit and I got more into the thesis than I thought I would but yeah I was studying development at the time and I thought maybe one day I would end up there somehow. And I kind of left it at that so I graduated and I actually came on board at nationally community church its a local church based here in DC they are about meeting in the marketing place and kind of engaging new generation. So I joined the staff there as the office manager and a couple months later they had announced they were going to start this trip to Congo. It is very relationship based it always stems from some sort of relationship. This woman at our church was the head of non profit based in Arizona that funds indigenous communities that are trying to do community life development and she had this special relationship with a community in Congo and that is how she introduced it, so because of that, that is when we decided to start it and then my coworker asked me to co lead in this trip with him. Our first trip was in 2011 and there was much tribal conflict and different rebel groups active in various areas in the east and when they found out more information about where we were going the community we were going to visit was in the east so you can imagination the procreation of me thinking if it is the right time, should we wait, what are we going to do! We decided to proceed on anyway more so preparing ourselves as much as we can and studying the history and the country. That experience pretty much changed my life.
There was something about Congo, I think after reading all these stories and books and publication on the status of the conflict now it would be really tough to figure this out and there are so many factors as to why this is still going on, many people have different theories. I was expecting to see the effects of poverty in the peoples eyes. When I went there and we spoke with a lot of people in the community and spoke with met the kids and the staff it was just different. Those factors are very real and real conflict going on. There is poverty in a lot of places and all of these issues but at the same time these people press on. They can still laugh and they still have hope for the future and also have joy after everything they have been threw. They come together as a community. Jeremiah is the technical guardian of these 57 orphans, he and the staff really want to invest in these kids and see them as leaders in the community wither they are a driver, engineer, IT person. One girl has an aspiration to be a governor in America. They dream and the fact that they dream .. how can we not? We are so privileged to have a lot here that we take for granted. It gives a good perspective on what is important in life. They take care of each other and have this massive family they consider each other brothers and sisters.
How Long Were you there for, with this organization?
In 2011, we went for 12 days and in 2012 I was there for two weeks and then this past year again for 10 days and we are going to go back again.
Thats Great, so it is consistent. Were you always into fashion and design and what you do now, or did that stump for your trip?
I always had an interest in fashion I love the imagination that designers put into their collections and I loved just kind of playing with norms and re-imaging mens wear wither its shoulder pads, sharp edges, ties, and reinventing that for woman and I love the play aspect of it.
When I was in College I worked for an organization called Fashion Fights Poverty they were event based and put on an annual runway show and they featured ethical and social responsible designers and they tried to shine a new light on what DC could be about. We turned that event into a non profit where we could engage with other brands to do a beneficiary event each year. I love the possibilities of how fashion could gibe back and tie stories together. I think a lot of the ethical brands that we featured have interesting prints and patterns like tribal and they take a lot of history and stories from other cultures.
When my parents sat me down and said what are you going to do attending GW this is a pricy school and you have to make sure you know what you want. The valuable career choices to me at the time was a government job or working at a a development organization so I didn’t really see the tie in with fashion. But obviously our careers take different turns and now I am seeing the light of the fashion component with what I’m doing now with the business.
Who do you design for? Do you have a certain kind of girl in mind that you would like to wear these things?
I design for primarily from 18—35 year olds. She is kind of a dreamer and a go-getter. She can be serious but can also play on the weekends. When I’m making my earrings I imagine them on the weekend. There is a lot of folks that work in government and politics where there is a standardized socialite. I imagine them on the weekend saying its friday!
I see you have a pair of them on, I LOVE those! But to me, you can wear those with something conservative. I would.
Its a pop! Expanding the product line to mens cufflinks, ties, scarves, I think its the same kind of demographic. But I really do believe that my earrings can be worn by people of all ages. This summer I went on tour with a musician friend of mine and he did a show in Alabama and my biggest customer was an 8 year old girl who got all these earrings for her friends and aunt. Another customer was in her mid 50’s and bought like 40 pairs for her friends. There is some appeal to it across all ages.
Where are you from and what is your ethnicity?
My parents are Philippine . They came here in 1983 and they wanted to have one more child here in America so they had me. I do not speak the language. I regret not being able to speak their language because I think having those different receptors in your brain being able to understand another language and speaking it, I would love to be able to do that. On the other hand it hasn’t been as practical for me to know it just because of the community that I have been around. My parents wanted to be able to work and figure out the culture so they wanted to speak English as much as possible so it was kind of an english speaking household.
With designs I have seen in your earrings, the colors and designs. I was wondering if there was any African influence in there because it is very bright and bold colors.Does your culture influence your style, if so how and why?
Probably around the summer, the island culture I’m sure. Actually with the three scarves that I have put online I really just love tartan prints. I went to this summer camp in Scotland for three years from 12-15 and the rolling hills and the lake and the lock and the life there. There is this rich heritage and the tartan fabrics remind me of that.
What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome to achieve your goals and come to this point?
I would say just getting to this point, I received the LLC designation on January 31st of this year. Now that i’m married it is not just me making these decisions I decided to quit my job and invest more in this business to build it up from the ground. I think that decision in itself says a lot. You have this passion inside and a sense of a practical plan to get there but at the end of the day you kind of have to just jump. I think the jump part was the hardest for me. I started in 2011 and I didn’t imagine I would be at this point I just knew I wanted to do it. I was getting enough orders and enough interest that I kind of had to make a decision with my full time job wither or not I wanted to pursue this because I didn’t want to half ass this. There are many uncertain factors so I am learning as much as a I can on how to structure business and figure out tax structure in DC. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.
What are the messages you wish to convey through your artistic expressions?
I would just like to have the product to convey a sense of quality and play. I want to get to the point where it doesn’t look like craft but looks like an actual product where the product is compelling in itself for people to purchase or to get for others. And then when they realize there is a story behind it that it brings a story of these kids and it is sharing and doing real things to help them get threw school and I would say that is the icing on the cake. I want it to be this perfect blend of story and quality. I find its fun to play with color and patterns.
What goals do you have for the future and for your career as a fashion designer?
I want the business to be established well and I would love to do a fair number of pop-up markets here in DC. Last year when I went on tour with the musician I also collaborated with a few friends on a look book. The aspect to collaborate with different artists is very exciting and to be able to bring the story to light in a different way. There is a way to reach people that normally wouldn’t be paying attention or would know about the issue. Pursing that and doing side passion projects to feel more ideas on how to get this into more peoples jewelry boxes.
I would love for my products to be in a few stores, that would be awesome. Also the goal for me that I have set is to be able to give $10,000 to the community in CCC.
Our magazine is all about empowering women’s self-confidence in their own aesthetic and personal style, regardless of their shape or looks. As a young woman, how do you view yourself in terms of self-confidence and style?
Its funny you ask this, I was just writing a blog about this because its New York fashion week. I think reframing the question is fundamental for women. We can easily be swept up in trends and what a new publication is telling us what we should wear or the must have thing. All of that has the trappings because they want women to feel comforting when they are wearing a certain piece of clothing of lipstick. I think women need to figure out what makes them feel comfortable first before they let publications and the media do it for them.
What would you say to young women that look up to the fashion industry to steer them in the direction of what’s “beautiful” but then beat themselves up because they can’t meet the industry’s standards?
I would figure out what your style is and if you know wither you like classical, vintage and so on. Women need to figure out what kind of style they feel good in and I think that lets you go off and play with other styles and other trends that are out there. The trends aren’t determining what your style is, you determine that first. You own it, it doesn’t own you.
What female figure, personal or non-personal, do you admire most and why?
First is Michelle Obama- especially here in DC, she has brought a great presence to her position and has stepped up to a level as a first lady. She has a quiet strength to her and I love the platform that she has brought to bringing health to the campaign and think she has done a really good job at being first lady.
Second is Grace Cunningham, the director of Vogue. I love her editorial spread and the way she dreams up those things is beautiful to me. I think I draw inspiration from that for the creative projects.
Lastly Nicole Warren, is a blogger based in Australia and her blog name is Gary Pepper Girl and she started out sourcing vintage pieces from around the world and now is represented in IMG doing these awesome blog shoots. She is street style meeting this dreamy epic landscape. She finds these really great venues and photographs these beautiful spreads for her blog.
What are three fashion items you can’t live without?
My J crew Mcalaster ledge boots, My J brand black jeans they are comfy and fit just right, and then I would say my Kicheko earrings.
Where can people purchase your clothing?
The main way to do that is to go online at Kicheko.org and hopefully I will be in a shop near you at some point!