February marks a significant month as Canadian communities honour the legacy of Black History. Through expressive and thoughtful participation there are meaningful opportunities to engage in open dialogue, to participate in significant events such as raising the Pan-African Flag and an overall invitation to share and learn about the history, the sacrifices and the accomplishments of Black Canadians who continue to shape Canadian history.
Nigerian-born Christine Eruokwu is a recent contributor to Canadian history with her clothing brand Kaima Designs. Now living in Saint John, Christine’s vision was to set the stage for beautiful African designs that are altogether adventurous, bold and unique. At the heart of this business, there is design and beauty and there is social responsibility and a keen awareness of sustainable goals. Established in 2017, Christine’s vision was all-encompassing as she supports underserved children in West Africa who benefit from a portion of sales which provide school uniforms. The value of education plays a big part in Christine’s world and in the way that she envisions Kaima Designs’ future. From the beginning, the brand has been about caring and sharing with an underlining message that there is something bigger than one's self. It’s key as Christine considers the impact of education and sustainable development goals and how the brand embodies faith, hope and care for the community.
The caring and sharing approach is top of mind as Kaima Designs responds to the impact of clothing, environment, sustainability and specifically, the 5Rs of Design. Early on Christine was inspired to Redesign, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Repair and engage others on this journey through education and empowerment. Today, clients can rent prom dresses infused with traditional African fabric (Aso-oke) or the royal top for men (Isi-agu) without the burden of owning and managing such outfits for special occasions.
Kaima Designs are interchangeable, adaptable and leave a lasting impression on the person wearing and sharing them. So often, there are stories of clients and friends sharing and trading, of donating and repurposing clothing from Kaima Designs. Behind the scenes, there are talented seamstresses who share their knowledge and practical advice on making small adjustments like sewing or switching buttons and proper care for different fabrics. Knowing this, Christine commits to quality from the beginning and how that impacts the life cycle of Kaima’s brand and the social investment.
Black History continues to play an essential role in Kaima Designs and the vision of an African Canadian’s legacy. Those early years of being inspired in Nigeria by a supportive family of being nurtured and having an opportunity for education led Christine to Atlantic Canada and New Brunswick. History is being made as Christine pushes boundaries in design, as an entrepreneur and as a most inspiring immigrant. At the centre of her legacy is Black History with a call for universal caring and sharing that summons participation and history in the making.
About the writer:
Heather White Brittain’s career spans manufacturing, sales, marketing, arts management, relocation and freelance writing. A proud Atlantic Canadian and born in Newfoundland, she has worked and lived extensively throughout Atlantic Canada. In 2013, she joined the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, New Brunswick. As Development Director, Heather secures funding for capital projects, outreach programming and annual giving all the while building meaningful relationships with donors, diverse stakeholders and immigrants. Passionate about population growth, diversity and inclusion, Heather’s personal and professional mission statement is to connect individuals from all walks of life so that it leads to happy and helpful relationship building.
Heather's community work was recognized by the National Connector Program as a Community Connector. "Being a connector is walking the talk and not just talking about it." Socially, economically, culturally, we will all benefit from growing our population through meaningful connector activities."-Heather White Brittain