Linda Khumbanyiwa is the founder of Lynne Kayenne Studio, a Malawian contemporary womenswear brand that utilizes her heritage, culture and craftsmanship to create tailored garments for fashion lovers across the world. Linda was born in Malawi but educated in the UK at both Huddersfield and Manchester universities where she attained a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management. Before starting Lynne Kayenne Studio, she worked as a professional model, blogger and a stylist for some of the biggest fashion brands in the world.
BUSINESS TODAY recently caught up with Linda Khumbanyiwa and engaged her in a conversation about her fashion brand and growth in this competitive industry.
BUSINESS TODAY: WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO
Linda: Lynne Kayenne Studio’s goal is to build a profitable fashion and manufacturing industry while also ploughing a percentage of the profits back into our community to empower women as well as supporting the youth in the creative sector.
BT: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR COMPANY?
Linda: I was talking to someone who told me that Malawi is only known for poverty and Madonna! That lit a fire in my bones to change people’s perception of my country and spurring me to create a fashion collection that would showcase Malawi in a bright light. The colour palette I used was influenced by natural colours, especially how our world looks from space. I was into the deep blue and yellow hues you see in pictures of the earth. I also wanted the designs to emulate the high standard of tailoring I have been styling people in over the past ten years.
I specialise in womenswear and strive to curate a world where every woman regardless of creed, colour and background can enjoy Lynne Kayenne Studio design and feel their most beautiful. I want my clients to feel special, to feel noticed, to feel confident and on top of the world when wearing my garments. I have created designs that are inspired by “tailored culture”. I wanted to create beautiful, tailored, classic and flattering pieces that are neat, clean and crisp that transition seamlessly from day wear to night.
BT: TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR TEAM
Linda: I source locally at Lilongwe market in Malawi where a lot of the traders are women and I also work with my sister, Norma, who helps with the operations of the label. As part of CSR for my brand we empower women as well as support the youth in the creative sectors. As we all know, women build nations and the vision is to work with more women, train them in every aspect of production at Lynne Kayenne Studio and enable them to make a wage that they can survive on.
BT: SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY. DO YOU COME FROM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL BACKGROUND?
Linda: Whilst at the university I came across a young Italian designer called Dario Cucci on Facebook and we became friends. At the time, he was so busy he did not have time to run his blog so asked me if I could help him. I started guest blogging on the Italian fashion site dariocuci where I wrote articles and did exclusive interviews with fashion designers such as Lilly Alfonso and Christian Blanken who has dressed the likes of Rita Ora and Cheryl Cole. My pieces didn’t just focus on fashion but combined it with inspirational, uplifting and motivational stories aimed to resonate with the reader and hopefully help them believe, like me, that they can achieve their dreams and that “Everything is Possible”.
Interviewing these movers and shakers inspired me to write my book, ‘D.R.E.A.M.C.H.A.S.E.R: 8 Ways to Make it Happen’. The book uses celebrity success stories and shows how these dream chasers, such as Oprah Winfrey and Rihanna, overcame adversity to achieve their goals.
To be honest, I started my own blog out of frustration. I got so sick and tired of looking at magazines, newspapers and television shows in the UK and rarely seeing black people represented in a positive light. I wanted to redress this so I created a space that covered fashion and entertainment with interviews with people that reflected African excellence, black superstars of African decent who are doing big things in music, film and entertainment. I covered Hakeem Kae-Kazim, the Nigerian born, British bred and trained actor who has starred in many well-known movies including the phenomenal Hotel Rwanda and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Through all of these experiences, the common thread has been my love of fashion, whether modeling it, writing about it or styling people in it. In 2018, I was commissioned to create a collection for a London shop which specialised in African designs. I was so excited to share my Malawian point of view and use chitenje fabric in the designs but sadly the deal fell through. It wasn’t until I was stuck in lockdown and was having a conversation with a friend who said Malawi is only known for poverty and its association with Madonna that I decided to put my experience and knowledge of fashion into action to design my collection with the aim of showcasing Malawi in a positive light.
BT: WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Linda: The goal at Lynne Kayenne Studio is to make the fashion ecosystem in Malawi bigger, better and more profitable. My dream is for this eco system to have more like minded creatives who are driven by creating quality products and jobs that can help develop the country. Our objective at Lynne Kayenne Studio is to help put in place an infrastructure that increases access to markets, connectivity and collaboration with the ultimate goal of using fashion as a means of improving people’s lives and creating real impact in Malawi.
BT: WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST SATISFACTION BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR
I get satisfied when we put our blood sweat and tears into a creation and the client includes it into their daily lives. At Lynne Kayenne Studio, we strive to curate a world where every woman regardless of creed, colour and background can enjoy Lynne Kayenne Studio design and feel their most beautiful.
BT: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN LOOKING TO START UP?
Linda: Start where you are and start with what you have. Also do not be afraid to ask for advice because every successful business was a start-up at one point and it’s only by sharing our knowledge and stories that we can flourish.