Fisayo Longe is the founder of Kai Collective, a womenswear brand taking the fashion world by storm. She founded the direct-to-consumer e-commerce firm in 2016 to offer independent women unique collections with an African touch.
Born in the UK, Longe spent her childhood in Nigeria. She moved back to London to complete her secondary education and got admitted to study law at a university. However, she could not finish because she failed to make the required grades.
Longe was fortunate enough to land a six-month internship at KPMG and later spent her time traveling around Asia. Through her travels, she was inspired to start a fashion and travel blog. On her return to the UK, she was offered a full-time job at KPMG as an apprentice accountant, according to Forbes.
While at KPMG, she continued to post on her travel and fashion blog, in addition to schooling during the summer holidays. Her interest in fashion led her to accept a short-term contract at Liberty, a London-based fashion brand in merchandising to get further experience in the industry.
She subsequently founded Kai Collective targeting the Black community with a touch of African fashion. Longe owns 100% of her business but has made community ownership a key feature of her business strategy. She takes feedback from her customers and incorporates it into her strategic decisions, and this has indeed paid off. According to Forbes, her revenue increased by half a million dollars, hitting $550,000.
“Our clothes make women feel good, but I don’t think we would be successful if it wasn’t for our community building and our very clear message that priorities and uplifts women,” Longe told Forbes.
The majority of her customers are made of Black women between the ages of 24 and 30 living in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Nigeria. Aside from building a solid brand, Longe is also influencing many designs and brands.
Before venturing into fashion, Longe had no connection in the industry. She had to rely on her 47,000 (now 122,000) Instagram followers to get her works out there. Her social media marketing paid off when a photo of her outfitted in a Kai dress at a BAFTA party went viral, according to Forbes.
Just when she was gearing up to launch, the pandemic struck in Asia, where her products were manufactured. This delayed production but requests for the outfit did not subdue.
With many Asian economies recovering from the pandemic, Longe launched the iconic ‘Gaia Dress’ in April 2020 and it sold out almost immediately.
Made with a mesh fabric by another Nigerian, female-owned brand, Grapes Pattern, the Gaia dress, according to Native, is “a colorful swirl of textures and patterns that is uniquely crafted for each wearer, as no two Gaia dresses look the same, and this was done in a bid to reduce waste of fabric and resources during the production process.”
The dress attracted media attention to Longe’s brand and she has since been featured on Elle and Vogue. Her brand also got a mention on Beyonce’s directory of Black Owned Everything.