JNF DESIGNS: REACHING THE WORLD WITH SIERRA LEONEAN FASHION

Mrs. Fredericka Williams founder – JNF Designs

Indeed, if fully developed – from the production of raw materials to textiles and accessories – the fashion industry would offer the African continent a net gain in prosperity of 25%. The number one priority to achieve this goal is to help the actors in this industry to move upmarket. Training, certification of inputs and products, quality and traceability, investments in infrastructure, systematization of copyrights on processes, protection of traditional knowledge, appellation of origins and emerging industrial clusters: many ideas and recommendations are already on the table after the first exchanges

What’s the authentic African fashion look? In recent times, African fashion has rocked the world causing a great interest in what we wear, our styles and fabric. If you were asked to describe the African fashion sense, what would you say? It’s quite intriguing how this powerful continent boasts of different ethnic garments, sadly most of us and our children grow up wearing ‘western clothing’. Some historians think we are fast losing our dress culture and so the need to make African fashion popular has suddenly become urgent. This being one of the reasons why we had a virtual chat with Fredricka Williams, a fabulous Sierra Leonean designer who has been working relentlessly on preserving the culture of some of our ethnic designs.

A Happy Customer Clothed in JNF

GET A DOSE OF STYLE FROM JNF

Jenner and Fredericka (JNF) Designs is dedicated to consistently provide customer satisfaction by rendering excellent quality products. We are dedicated to creating an enjoyable atmosphere for fashion lovers. We have cultivated a niche that values relationship, good price value margins for both individuals and corporate institutions.

The story behind our brand is the never ending desire to produce extraordinary outfits at every point in time. We want every client to be above the normal standard.

‘I believe I was born with the innate ability to fix pieces of fabrics and create’ – Fredericka Williams

A Happy Customer clothed in JNF ‘Modern Cabaslot’

STARTING YOUNG SOWS SEEDS OF GREATNESS

As early as age nine, I requested a sewing machine from my dad to make clothes for my dolls. It was a toy machine but could do actual stitches.

While I was waiting for formal employment after graduating from the University of  Sierra Leone with a Bsc. Honours in Economics, I had to turn to my childhood hobby. What started as a hobby has now become a full employment. I moved to Nigeria to master the skill, and since then, I’ve been engaged in self development.

SIERRA LEONEAN TOP MODEL – MARGARET CASSELL IN JNF DESIGNS

JNF IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Unfortunately, I have done so much more than I have documented, mainly because I started when social media was not this vibrant and also because I focused mainly on my product development and perfection. I hardly make time to document, I could name countless achievements but a few I can remember are; Firstly the transforming of the traditional cabaslot style into a modern art. I succeeded in making it conventional and acceptable to all age groups. I can remember about a decade ago, when I was invited to a career day service. I wanted to do something traditional and modern. Then, cabaslot or what is commonly known as print style was only for elderly women and it made you look old.

I took the print apart and used the concept to develop a fashion label dress which I wore and everyone liked it. I must say that I feel proud that there’s this new acceptance of the ‘krio print‘. At first, I was lambasted that we wanted to spoil the style, that we had to keep it as it is, but I wasn’t moved. I kept pushing and each time, I outdid the previous style. The ideas for the print style are endless, now it’s applicable on any fabric, and I am happy for the transformation it has seen. This style is peculiar only to Sierra Leone and we want it to be accepted not only within Sierra Leone but internationally.

We have also created many costumes for beauty pageants both locally and internationally.  Participated in local and international trade fairs. JNF has organized fashion shows and participated in several of them. We were winners of the designer’s competition from The Miss Sierra Leone pageant. 

Our brand has been able to tell our story both locally and internationally, most notably when UNIDO celebrated their 50th anniversary. I was among the fifty women who received award for turning their passion into business . Lastly, I must say that I am the first graduate of economics who became a fulltime dressmaker in Sierra Leone.

Founder Ariana Diaries in JNF Designs

RESILIENCE IS THE KEY TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Some things that I regret; in life is the fact that it is detrimental to  procrastinate. I wish I had implemented a lot of ideas that have come to my mind over the years. There are many things I wanted to do that I haven’t done, either because I couldn’t do it alone or I just kept pushing it aside. I have become distracted from some of the things that I wanted to do, but I’ve remained focused mainly on my product. I wish I could explore some areas. I wish I could have done more than I am doing now. I think there was room for me to do a lot more but it’s never too late.

I am a selfless person, I do not mind helping others, I do not mind depriving myself to please people. I have done so at the expense of my own personal gratification. There are many times I couldn’t celebrate during the holidays. There are many functions I couldn’t go to because I wanted to meet with deadlines.

EACH ONE , TEACH ONE

I have not only been training young people, I have consistently been providing stipends for them. Formerly, when you come to be trained, you have to pay but now I give them a little sum of money just to keep them motivated. I encourage them to learn and it gives me great satisfaction when I see I have trained several youth. I’m not a person who hides my skill. I want several young people to look back and thank God that they met me. I am not threatened by the growth of anyone. I’m confident, I’m full of life, I want to see people grow, and I want many more Frederickas to be born.

Some things I look for when I hire: I can work with anybody, all I need you to have is the right attitude and the desire to learn, the willingness to take instructions. I have trained people, who at the beginning looked like it was impossible for them to learn but with the right attitude we made it work. 

EXPLORING THE ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE FASHION SPACE

Sustainable fashion: I’ve been passionate about recycling, there’s so much more, that I want to be done with the waste from the factory. But these days, you have limited amount of young people wanting to do craft because there are lots of  waste you can use to craft jewelry to craft soft furnishing. One important material that we have made from the waste of water sachet is the shopping bag. We also use left over pieces of fabrics to do patchwork. The patchwork can be used as bed covers, table covers. We can use them to make clothes. Most of the time when the trainees come, that is what they start with. They gather the pieces of scrap fabric, they join them together and make clothes out of them.

MAKE AFRICAN FASHION GO GLOBAL

In the future, I would like to work with other designers. The space is big enough for all of us to operate. Each individual has their own niche, I’m not threatened to collaborate with other designers.  We still import a lot of clothing and accessories, so it means we are all not operating at an optimal level. Unfortunately, most of us don’t think this way, so we have been working solo. We have not been able to form strong relationships as designers and I hope that will change.


Get in Touch with JNF Designs

27b Pike Street Brookfields Freetown, Sierra Leone

Telephone : 00 232 78 922779

Written by: arianadiaries

Leave a Reply

8 Comments