Keller Center: What was your inspiration for creating a community-based clothing brand?
MC Otani: Maya Wegerif, aka Sho Madjozi, and Julia Costa are two designers who have combined social and environmental sustainability to create pieces that speak of their identities and their aspirations. Their entrepreneurial spirit has been a large source of motivation for me. More generally, for an industry with so much visibility and political implications, fashion is severely lacking in designers of color and designers who are able to speak to younger generations and their experiences. Kotami's goal is to help fill that need and to collaborate with and promote other content creators in our communities.
KC: What is the biggest goal you hope to accomplish during eLab this summer?
MCO: To launch our online store nationally!
KC: What is your dream goal for Kotami?
MCO: To win the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue fashion fund award and the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Young Designer award. To leverage our brand to create an incubator for aspiring designers and a marketplace to promote non-American/non-European brands.
KC: Who are your entrepreneurial heroes?
MCO: Kerby Jean Raymond, founder and creative director of Pyer Moss and Robyn Rihanna Fenty, artist and founder of FENTY. These two artists started with nothing and built their own global brands which have stayed true to their values and beliefs. More than just making clothes, their brands have produced art and content that openly discussed issues around mental health, body positivity, and race, democratizing fashion creation and inspiring an entire generation of young, POC designers.