BIDHAAR Brands: Kente Gentlemen, An African Fashion Story Of Colour And Poetry

With love from Côte d’Ivoire, Kente Gentlemen is weaving Africa’s authentic stories through hand-made creations on homegrown fabrics. Know more about BIDHAAR’s brand partner in this candid conversation with its Founder and Creative Director, Aristide Loua.

Kente Gentlemen
More Life, More Poetry. Spring Summer 20 Collection

Kente Gentlemen is a premium menswear and womenswear brand inspired by the iconic textile that is the Kente cloth – native to the Ashanti kingdom in Ghana and now popular in other parts of West Africa. With an aim to celebrate the African heritage, every piece explores identity through textiles while promoting local artisanship.

“The kente cloth is a sign of gesture towards our ancestry, tradition, and heritage,” says the creative mind behind the brand, Aristide Loua. He goes on to speak about the constraints and misconceptions of defining African fashion. Citing an example, he talks about the fabric known as the African wax print, which is not of African origin but is now seen as our identity. Kente Gentlemen seeks to reclaim this narrative by creating powerful styles sourced and stitched with precision by local tailors, handweavers, and other artisans.

Officially launched by Aristide Loua in 2017, the brand consists of a close-knit team which includes Sydney Bagrou – Chief financial officer, and Cyprien Mvuanda – Chief Technology Officer. According to Aristide, what we know as Kente Gentlemen would have been ‘Kente boys,’  but a friend pointed out that this was a team of grown men, not boys. Today, as Kente Gentlemen, this brand thrives as an ode to Aristide’s love for well-dressed people.

Kente Gentlemen is unravelling stories about culture, colour, and poetry, one collection at a time.

Sodade; Autumn Winter 19-20 Collection

Each collection by Kente Gentlemen is a distinct story with layered meanings. It is interesting to note that although the brand features vivid colours, it stays true to minimalism because, for each piece, there are never too many colours at once.

Sodade, the very first collection, is a Portuguese term that means “To lose someone or something.” It is the product of  Aristide’s heartbreak story and a journey to self-discovery. In this collection, he likens emotions to colour and represents these emotions in every piece. For instance, Blue is for hope, Pink for romance, and Yellow for happiness. Some of the pieces are dark-coloured fabrics featuring brightly-coloured pockets or linen. Aristide explains that this was his way of saying that Loss can make you feel a lot of sorrow, but these coloured spots are signs that you can slowly embrace happiness once more.

Watch the Fashion film for Sodade here:

In his second collection, More Life, More Poetry, there is a confirmation of the brand philosophy as a connection to the soul through style. Thus, with stripes and more colour, Kentle Gentlemen creates a classic African fashion statement that cuts across the continent and beyond.

The Journey Through The Lens Of Aristide Loua

Aristide Loua
Founder and Creative Director of Kente Gentlemen, Aristide Loua

Kente Gentlemen resonates with such compelling humanity that it is impossible not to be curious about the founder’s story. Aristide Loua is a Fashion Designer, Writer, Film Maker, Photographer, and avid Traveller. His is a poignant story that begins in the back of his mother’s kitchen where she (with the help of his aunties) delivered him into the world in an unexpected turn of events.

From a birth story that will albeit be retold from generation to generation, Aristide began to create stories of his own from a very young age. His family moved around for a while until the drastic move to India when he was 14. Here, he attended a French High School and shortly after, he was off to the US to study Mathematics.

Aristide 2
Photo: @kentegentlemen, Instagram

How does a person go from studying Mathematics to building a Fashion brand? Aristide kept moving. From Utah in the US, he ventured into New York, where he discovered fashion, art, and photography. Ironically, the birth of Kente Gentlemen was inspired by his mum sending him a shirt made not from Kente cloth but with wax print. The excitement and nostalgia of receiving a gift from his country home where he had not visited in years, woke something in him. He would later return to Abidjan to explore the markets, source fabrics, and employ the services of local artisans in creating custom pieces for the brand that we now know as Kente Gentlemen.

What started with a wax print shirt grew into a 1500 dollar investment and today, this team of three continues to share profound stories from our African continent through fashion.

“To us, Kente Gentlemen is more than a clothing brand. In such an interconnected world, it is also a means for us, by us, to discover, value, celebrate, and narrate our diverse socio-cultural heritage and identities through fashion, aesthetics, photography, and other visual arts. It’s only fair that we embrace and portray those rightful attributes to the global village we all belong to.”

As you may have figured out, nothing about Kente Gentlemen is ordinary. When asked about his vision for the brand, Aristide talks about building a flagship store in Abidjan that will exist as a comprehensive showroom experience for people looking to discover Africa, from clothing pieces to an Art gallery.

BIDHAAR is delighted to be in partnership with a brand that shares our keenness for storytelling and community. Pieces from Kente Gentlemen are available to shop in our store located at 133A Rye Lane, Ground Floor, Market Peckham, Peckham, London. United Kingdom. SE15 4BQ. 

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