Giveaway Alert! ‘The Essential White Shirt’ by Katiti Kironde

Wes Ferguson / March 11, 2011

The name Katiti Kironde is well known and respected in the fashion world — she was the first African American cover girl  in Glamour’s 1968 issue. It was the first time a black woman had been on the cover of a U.S. fashion magazine, which is a pretty big deal!

Celebuzz had the distinct pleasure of talking to the woman behind the famous image, who is now debuting her own line called “Katiti.” Plus, we’re giving away two of her ultra-fashionable shirts!

TO ENTER THE SWEEPSTAKES, SEE BELOW:

You’ve had a ground-breaking career as the first African American woman on the cover of Glamour. When you started out, did it occur to you that you were blazing a trail?

No, I have to be honest. It was really quite a wonderful thing. The person who made it happen was Ruth Whitney, who was the editor and chief of Glamour at the time, and Amy Gween, who was the beauty editor. I was pretty much a kid and I was immature. I had never ever seen a black person on the cover of any fashion magazine in my whole life. It was just a big, big thing because it was the 60’s, things were happening, and I was just really honored to be a part of the changes that were being made.

How did you get into design? 

When I was seven years old, my mother died, which was very, very disruptive and sad, because we were small, but my mother had gone to design school herself in the UK. We come from Uganda in East Africa, my mom had left her sewing machine. When she died, I used to get on it and sew. No one told me, I just got on it and I sewed. My mom’s clothes were up in the attic and I would go and take the lace off her petticoats and stitch it on the bottom of my clothing. I started sewing that way and I just loved sewing.

That’s a very touching story. Many would assume that you would have a team of designers working for you and you choose the designs that you like, but you’re very hands on.

I design everything myself, and I was the senior designer for a big company until two and a half years ago, where I would in fact do the sketching and do the choosing on the fabrics, etcetera. Now that I work for myself designing those shirts, I like to say, ‘I, Katiti Kironde, go out there and I pick the fabric, I do the sketch, I pick the buttons, I fit them on the model myself to see that they fit right, I adjust them myself, I write all the specifications and all of the details, and each and every one of those shirts, I give birth to it, I have nobody working for me’. I send them to Asia, they’re made in China, and I have a guy who kind of manages those relationships for me.

You’re essentially recreating the white shirt. Where did you draw the inspiration to do that?

I love a white shirt. I just love the crispness, the cleanness of it. I love when my husband puts on a white shirt and his blue jeans, I just love that. I always wanted them to be fashionable, so I would go out and I would buy two of them or something and then take the sleeves off of one and put them on the other or add two of them together to create one.

I always used to think; ‘I’m going to make the white shirts by using what’s called dressmaker details.’ That’s when you put something on the shirt without having to take away from the shirt. It just enhances it. It’s just simple but stylish and elegant. You could take that shirt and put a pair of jeans and a great belt and some amazing shoes, cause I’m all about shoes, and then some wonderful jewelry or no jewelry and you just look spectacular because it’s clean. There’s something about it that makes you look priceless. So, a person who really is into details and wants something special will like my shirts.

What are some of your favorite things to wear?

I have to have the best shoes in the world on. Right now, I have on a pair of purple Loubitin high heeled shoes with my jeans, I have on a white shirt of course and a great belt. Even though I work from home, I get up in the morning and I dress myself up. I love clothes.

 What do you think is some of the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

My father actually said to me one time, and I’ll never forget this, “Only worry about yourself, don’t worry about what the other guy has. You want to be, in life, like a racehorse with blinders on; you only compete with yourself.” I think that was the best advice I ever got. Only compete with yourself. As long as you giving it your all — and I think you must always give it your all.

I also got some incredibly good advice from Cindy Levvy, who is the editor in chief of Glamour magazine. She said, “Always be persistent, always be persistent, don’t be put off; always be persistent.”

Another thing my Dad always said was, “Whatever you do, never ever sell out your integrity.” Speak with who you truly are. If it doesn’t work with those people, that situation, then it wasn’t meant to be.

Very, very good advice.

Yes. For my own little motto, I wrote it up: Always keep laughing and smiling and always be kind. And slow down.

It’s hard to laugh and smile after bad day. What do you do to get you through tough times?

You know what I say; I say this happened today but then there’s tomorrow. I really try to look at the next thing. Of course, I may go out and buy a pair of shoes I do not need.

 TO ENTER: TELL CELEBUZZ YOUR FAVORITE ITEM TO PAIR WITH A CLASSIC WHITE SHIRT — BE IT DARK PANTS, A SKIRT OR JUST A BELT! WE’LL PICK TWO WINNERS, SO BE SURE TO MENTION YOUR SIZE & WHICH STYLE YOU PREFER. 

Photo credit: Adam Collins