Tuesday, 16 December 2014 20:35

From Hard-Times To Haute Times

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Emerging from the catwalks of the Houston, Texas fashion scene is a soft-spoken entrepreneur of fashion, with bold statements on style and culture.

Kimma Wreh is the creative mind behind TeKay Designs. As the Head Designer of the couture fashion label, Kimma specializes in creating non-traditional and multi-cultural bridal and formal wear for men, women and children. The fashions are a mix of ethnic and contemporary designs. Wreh is from the country of Liberia and is a naturalized US citizen. As a first generation immigrant, Kimma Wreh is an example of the type of persons the United States has always welcomed to it's borders. Recent comments by President Obama explain the policy our nation has taken towards immigrants. "For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities." --President Barack Obama (Nov, 2014 Statement on Immigration Policy).

On the heels of New York Fashion Week 2014 where Wreh's gowns were previewed, the fashion label showcased two new collections during the Houston Fashion Week 2014 events that led to Kimma Wreh of TeKay Designs being awarded "Best Couture Designer" for the "Crown Collection" of formal gowns and "Best Bridal Designer" title for the "Queen of the Brides" gown collection. Wreh also won "Fashion Designer of the Year Award" from the Ward Educational Foundation; (A non-profit organization with a school for girls in Liberia). The Houston Fashion awards acknowleged Wreh's consistent contributions to philanthropic causes. Moreover, Kimma was awarded "2014 Top Designer of the Year" award by D-Mars Black Lifestyle Magazine. As an added recognition. Wreh received the Rising Star nomination from Fashion Group International, New York in the Accessories Category title. In 2014, R&B singer-songwriter Angie Stone, Chante Moore, and TV news anchor Deborah Duncan of "Great Day Houston" have worn TeKay Design's statement necklaces. These celebrities joined the ranks of tennis superstar Serena Williams, actress Ashley Rickards and Busy Phillips by wearing TeKay Designs.

Earning many accolades and celebrity endorsements throughout 2014, it appears Kimma Wreh is on easy street. "2014 has certainly been a breakout year for me. It's been very busy and exciting. It appears my hard work is beginning to pay off." explains Kimma. "It has certainly been a life of struggle for me. My humble beginnings started in my home country of Liberia where I lived a normal life until a series of military coups during the 1980's. My father was a government offical and my family had to flee our home in 1986 because the militants were causing atrocities throughout the country. These were the darkest days of my life. My family lived in fear for months. My parents were able to help me flee the country for a better life in the United States. When I arrived in the US, all I had was $100 and a small suitcase. It was a blessing to enroll in college at Howard University, however it was challenging. I successfully completed a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Howard University. I later earned my master's degree in Business Administration from LeTourneau University. During my tenure at Howard, I began creating stylish African fashions for my personal wardrobe. After receiving numerous complements and request for custom dresses, I decided to start my business with my sister. Although my sister and I began working separate businesses, we occasionally collaborate on projects. TeKay Designs has been in operation for over 16 years now, and it's truly been a love of labor. The challenges with being a single mother and startup business gets to be hectic and exhausting. I must divide my attention between my kids, the computer, calls and meetings with customers, suppliers, event promoters, seamstresses and fit models in the same moments. Dispite the challenges, I feel blessed to have achieved what I have."

Kimma Wreh's fashion ideas exemplifies the entrepreneurial drive that is all-American. TeKay introduces new cultural designs, fabrics and embroidery into it's gown collection and brings forth advanced sewing techniques, beading, ornamentations and cultural education. With each season the gowns spark dynamic thought and dialogue about culture and design that is always interesting. Culture and style is TeKay Design's aesthetic signature and philanthropy is always an agenda for Kimma.

TeKay Designs has participated in various charitable causes and social endeavors aimed at uplifting the lives of women who are disabled or disadvantaged. Wreh's recent initiative is making gowns for wheelchair bound women. Her recent encounter with Mrs. Deborah Grayson Carpenter, former contestant for Ms. Wheelchair Texas Pageant and Ambassador for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, is an example of Kimma's generosity. "I was touched by Deborah's story and positive outlook on life. I created a couture gown, veil and headpiece for Deborah because I wanted her to feel glamourous during the fashion show, despite her spinal cord injury. It was amazing to see her on the runway. Deborah is the first person in a wheelchair to wear a TeKay Designs gown".

The Crown Collection is a line of pageant gowns that positions the TeKay brand within a network of pageant queens who are ambassadors to philanthropic causes. Kimma believes in giving back. Some of the African inspired gowns produced by TeKay are created in Ghana, Africa. Skilled seamstresses and embroiderers work to produce dresses and men's attire for an entire bridal party. TeKay outsources work opportunities for women to create elaborate couture gowns for brides who want culturally themed ceremonies. " It's important to give back!" explains Kimma, "I feel good about creating jobs for women in Africa. However, the current Ebola epidemic appears to be a distraction for many West African countries. Africans have been stigmatized by this deadly virus and it has effected doing business in West Africa. Although I've not returned to Liberia in over a decade, I'm stigmatized because I'm Liberian... I am Liberian, not a virus! Ebola hysteria and stigmatization has inspired me to begin plans to work on a fundraising event to help provide medical supplies to help combat the Ebola virus --while celebrating African culture. Fashion events are an excellent way to promote the creativity and culture of Africa." states Kimma.

African fashions are still on the rise across the world. Consultancy Africa Intelligence (www.consultancyafrica.com), is a South African based research firm that has recorded 16 major fashion shows in Africa during 2011. There are several international fashion events which serve African-based designers as a platform to showcase their work. Moreover, new trends and labels are promoted on websites, in fashion magazines like the Nigeria based Arise Magazine. African inspired dresses are being created in every city by cosmopolitan designers like Kimma Wreh who are reshaping the image of Africa one garment at a time.

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