At KUTULA Everyone is a Part of the Tribe
Off the corner of Slauson Ave and Overhill Dr, nestled in the heart of the Windsor Hills community in sunny Los Angeles you’ll find your one stop shop for all things African fashion. Welcome to KUTULA BY AFRICANA, a premiere retailer for African-inspired fashions since 1971. For the past 45 plus years, KUTULA has designed and created contemporary fashions from their flagship store in Los Angeles. The African boutique shop also serves as a design showroom for African-inspired fashions, serving film and TV costume and set designers, stylists, celebrities, dignitaries and leaders across sectors.
Behind KUTULA are two forward thinking business women with a keen eye for fashion. Nyambo and Kay Anuluoha, born and raised in Los Angeles with parental roots in Nigeria and Zambia, serve as co-owners and CEOs of the family business passed on by their mother. After working corporate jobs in NYC and Washington D.C. as executives in public relations and public affairs, the two sisters decided to leave their decorated careers to take over the brand. “The pivotal moment that switched our decision to take over the business was the rise in attention of African fashion,” Nyambo told Amplify Africa. “We saw the switch from African traditional fashion to contemporary.” While the brand was already a contemporary fashion brand, they saw this change as a foundation to continue the business.
Photo: CEOs and Co-Owners Nyambo and Kay Anuluoha
Originally founded as Africana Imports in 1971, the brand underwent a change when the sisters took over, starting with the name. KUTULA, which means “to leap forward” in Zambia, began to focus more on incorporating designs for everyday wear as opposed to only special occasions. While purchasing African clothing can dig deeper into your wallet than standard clothing, it’s durability makes it an investment that can last multiple wears and uses according to Nyambo. KUTULA offers both custom pieces, created locally in their design studio, as well as ready to wear clothing off the rack produced in Lusaka, Zambia. Noting that many of their clients were unable to find high quality products online, KUTULA assures quality product for their clients. The team inspects each piece that comes into the store for any snags, tears, or imperfections. Since the majority of fabric is not designed and created by the team, the integrity of the fabrics they choose from the beginning is crucial.
“We take the time to buy top quality fabrics, and as the pieces are made and before they enter the showroom, we make sure that everything is great. So when you come in, you buy, try it on, or take it off the rack and go,” Nyambo said. “We are very particular about finishing our hems, our sewing, and the design aspect of making sure garments fit for different sizes and shapes,” she says as she notes how that can be frustrating to curvier, full figured men and women. While their clients range in sizes, the brand has seen an uptick in client demand for plus sizes. KUTULA proudly serves men, women, and children of all shapes and sizes with their pieces.
Photo: Inside KUTULA’s flagship store
At KUTULA, no matter who you are, you are a part of the tribe. Walking into the boutique store, you’ll most likely be met by a warm greeting from Nyambo and after a few short minutes, feel like you’ve chatted with a long lost friend. This speaks to what may be the retailer’s secret sauce: being relationship based. KUTULA has built a legacy that prides itself in executing pieces for its clients. The brand has worked in partnership with the likes of director Ryan Coogler and Academy Award winning costume designer, Ruth Carter who received her Oscar for the globally acclaimed film Black Panther, as well as Kendrick Lamar’s All the Stars music video for the movie’s soundtrack. “Working on Black Panther with Ruth Carter and her team was an honor and pleasure. We had admired her work for a long time so we understood the level of quality and finishing and integrity that was needed so it was very easy to work with her,” Nyambo recalls. They also provide regular personal styling for Beyoncé Knowles Carter and her family, and had a hand in working as a part of her styling team for the 2019 Disney The Lion King video and photo projects.
Photo (Left to Right): Nyambo, Ruth Carter, Kay
Most recently, KUTULA completed a collaboration with the 2020 WNBA No. 2 draft pick, Satou Sabally. They worked together with Sabally’s team to give her an African-centered experience for the first virtual draft. “I’m a child of the U.S., Gambia, and Germany, and it’s so important to celebrate these origins on my biggest day,” Sabally wrote on her Instagram. “We not only clothed her, but adorned the background,” said Bo. “It was fun. We also do styling along with our pieces. We offer styling tips which makes it really great to bring the pieces to life.” Sabally stood in front of a stunning African print backdrop featuring three bold patterns during the virtual draft, while wearing a custom suit and hoodie by KUTULA.
Photo: WNBA player Satou Sabally in KUTULA
In looking to the future, the brand hopes to continue to provide great service to the community and expand that community beyond the Los Angeles area to become an international brand. Standing on its core values of service, community, and quality, KUTULA has maintained great relationships with local nonprofits, schools, and churches in its local community for decades, serving as a bridge to Africa. “We really have been embraced and there’s a deep appreciation for the love of our fashions and the love of Africa,” Nyambo said of the local LA community. With all of the new developments coming to the city, KUTULA hopes to be at the forefront to inspire African businesses. “The legacy is to continue to be a prideful business and a women, minority owned business.” Having worked with many groups that are focused on African or African American pride, Nyambo believes that this is something that is not going to stop and says there is room for more. “We’re at the point now where we knew we would be. The next five years are going to be amazing.”