Nsimba Valene Lontanga - Founder of LIBAYA
Whenever a brand or business grabs our attention we like to listen with all ears and eyes open because for that split second they’ve inspired us and we always want to find out more. If you are a regular reader then you’ll realise that we love to get into the mind of the creative behind it all. We candidly quiz them about careers, challenges (or opportunities) and crossroad decisions that boosted them on their journey today. It’s with that in mind that we approached Nsimba the brains behind brand L I B A Y A.
Brantuo Studio travelled to Accra, Ghana to meet Amsterdam based Nsimba in person. As we proceeded to Elle Lokko; a concept store, which is also strong instrument to bringing an awareness of upcoming fashion brands being the right in the heart of the capital; we discussed her story.
Inspired by the African continent which her heritage lies specifically Congo, Nsimba relays that Africa is her inspiration and what feeds her creativity therefore being on home soil she is busy armed with a passionate purpose.
ON HER JOURNEY TO LAUNCHING LIBAYA: LIBAYA was established after a time of research and collaborating with so many artists across the continent, this subconsciously contributed to every project that I’ve art directed. It has always been my aim to have my own brand and in essence pay tribute to my heritage. In DR CONGO, Libaya in the widely spoken language of Lingala means a “traditionally tailored women’s top.” And from that I drew inspiration as in Congo most of the women have a staple piece in their wardrobe which consists of a libaya blouse which is off the shoulder style; this is where I gained the inspiration to reinvent our traditional style but keep the meaning the same. It is aimed at the woman to ooze femininity but still be able to stride up and down the market with confidence; that’s part of the reason why I mostly use off the shoulder.
ON HER TIME IN GHANA: I love Ghana. Ghana is such a happy, welcoming and peaceful place. My love for Ghana grows each time I am here. Being here also inspired me to launch Libaya as I would return home to Amsterdam and be quizzed about my blouses, which was often compared to a well-known high street brand because of its simple and clean lines. The types of fabrics I use are not the typical African print material. I stick to simplifying it showcasing the importance of tailoring. I really think the time is now, it’s time for us to share a new style story.
ON BUILDING A BRAND: Before Libaya I created Stories Of Near – This is a creative platform which aims to collaborate with artists across the African continent and connect was important for me to showcase as I wanted to show the world our craft authentically, to eliminate western stigmas of before. From that I am proud that this brand exudes my heritage and grace for other women; not forgetting the story which bonds it together. I have a legacy that I like to present to future generations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATING: Initially what brought me to Ghana was my research thesis, I was working for a company and I fell in love with the country, the fact that I was able to shoot all images with Ghanaian (models, photographer etc) and make all the items of clothing is testament to LIBAYA because I was able to accomplish what I thought I couldn’t – hassle free. The importance of collaborating among creatives is to strengthen our talents together – We need push for each other and highlight our own narratives as a people.
2017 SO FAR: This year has been remarkable because I am slowly being recognised after being featured in Signatures Magazine and I have been working on me and my brand so I am on my way to living my dreams. That’s what excites me! Every day is a challenge but it’s a good challenge, I am out of my comfort zone so I tend to challenge myself to be smarter and cease the opportunities that I am faced with.
THIS YEAR I WILL: Be Better!
IN FIVES YEARS TIME: I would really like to be recognised as someone who encourages the African story for the next generation. I would love to aid people to become more of themselves and use their own stories to enhance the community and in turn bring a collected awareness.