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'I HAVE FOUND MY RHYTHM IN NIGERIA'

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Ever before she had cause to visit Nigeria, Caterina Bortolussi dreamt of a country where she can have her mission accomplished. An Italian who loves freedom arrived Nigeria a few years back and fell in love with the country. She has since been practising her fashion designing, a passion she had nursed from childhood.

Who are you and where are you coming from?
I am Caterina Bortolussi. I hail from a small village called Spilimberrgo in Italy with about 300 people in the countryside just behind the hills and surrounded by cornfields. My parents are farmers and so were their parents. We had simple life surrounded by nature, with strong values and a place where we could play freely.

Designing clothes was my dream, my way to express my creativity and myself. Life took me through different routes and I did many things before landing on fashion. I was an investment banker with Bunker Broker while in London and I also tried my hand on advertising, communications, events as well as organizing two international film festivals in Nigeria.

Of all countries, why Nigeria?
I was tired of living in London. I wanted more out of life. I wanted to travel round the world to find and feel a sense of freedom that I never had in London. I was doing a job I was not enjoying and I was not feeling London and my life there anymore. And here all of a sudden, the opportunity to travel and work came to me and it brought me to Nigeria.

Have you discovered that missing, vital part of life's rhythm now that you are in Nigeria?

I have made Nigeria my home because Nigeria makes me feel so alive and happy. So, yes, I have. I have realized that this is the place I wanted to be. I wake up in the morning and I am grateful to start a new and hectic day. I wake up and I am excited about what we at Kinabuti are creating day by day. When I launched Kinabuti, I knew I wanted it to be a Nigerian-Italian Label, inspired by Nigeria, produced in Nigeria, with Italian professionalism. It is being run and operated by Italians and Nigerians. The crew is working together on the fashion Label and on the social projects.

How do you see fashion business here?
I definitely see a difference; I see amazing and creative professionals who have created a name for themselves in Nigeria, Africa and around the world. I see people passionate and determined to make it happen. People are proud of where they come from and are celebrating this through their clothes, hence , designers that have made Nigeria proud. I participated in the Arise Fashion week and I was so impressed by what I saw on the runaways and by the audience. Everyone was so excited and mesmerized by the several shows and organizations.

Of all businesses, why fashion?
As a kid, I could not rightly pronounce my long lengthy name, Caterina Bortolussi. That was how Kinabuti came about. It is a name that has been with me since I was a kid. When I was in London, I was living with an Aussie woman and she heard my mum during her stay with me calling me Kina and she asked why. So, I told her it was my nickname and a few people knew about it. She loved it and started calling me Kinabuti. It resonated inside of me and I knew that my dream of designing clothes, no matter how far I was from reaching it from a Barclays Skycraper in Canary Wharf would be called Kinabuti.

What is the difference between Kinabuti fashion and Kinabuti Laboratory?

The two are one and the same. They are a synergy that creates strength. Kinabuti Fashion Label which we call Kinabuti Wardrobe produces our clothes. The Kinabuti Laboratory implements social projects to inspire the youths, create capacity, create job opportunities and development in the fashion industry. To grow a fashion industry in Nigeria, we need people who have professional skills and we need the right framework. If the industry grows, more jobs will be created and more income opportunities would be obtained. An economy that grows with sustainability and strong foundations should boost healthy development that benefits the people.

What is the mission of the Kinabuti Laboratory?
Through our Kinabuti Laboratory, our non-profit social enterprise and the driving force of all our projects, we identify, develop and implement projects aimed at the younger generation with the purpose of instigating change by encouraging them to redefine their aspirations and give shape to their own potential through vocational education, training programme and creating job opportunities.

How was the launch of your first collection in Rivers State?

We launched our first collection in Port Harcourt in December 2010. I have been working in Port Harcourt since 2007. In 2009, we held the ION International Film Festival, and in 2010,we had the Africa International Film Festival. We wanted to create an impact in the communities where we had been operating. We wanted to carry a message stronger than just beautiful and feminine clothes. We want fashion to be a vehicle, our vehicle and that was how we decided to work with girls from the waterside and make them our models, train them, make them believe in themselves and celebrate where they hail from.

Who inspires you?
My friends in Nigeria, people, arts, moments, structures and characters are my main sources of inspiration. My first collection was inspired by Lady Oscar, a lady chevalier born before the French Revolution. She was a very strong woman but at the same time, so beautiful and courageous.

'I have found my rhythm in Nigeria'
By JIMOH RASAKI
Saturday , November 26, 2011

Photo: Sun News Publishing

Mores Stories on this Section http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/features/blockbuster/index.htm

Ever before she had cause to visit Nigeria, Caterina Bortolussi dreamt of a country where she can have her mission accomplished. An Italian who loves freedom arrived Nigeria a few years back and fell in love with the country. She has since been practising her fashion designing, a passion she had nursed from childhood.

Who are you and where are you coming from?
I am Caterina Bortolussi. I hail from a small village called Spilimberrgo in Italy with about 300 people in the countryside just behind the hills and surrounded by cornfields. My parents are farmers and so were their parents. We had simple life surrounded by nature, with strong values and a place where we could play freely.

Designing clothes was my dream, my way to express my creativity and myself. Life took me through different routes and I did many things before landing on fashion. I was an investment banker with Bunker Broker while in London and I also tried my hand on advertising, communications, events as well as organizing two international film festivals in Nigeria.

Of all countries, why Nigeria?
I was tired of living in London. I wanted more out of life. I wanted to travel round the world to find and feel a sense of freedom that I never had in London. I was doing a job I was not enjoying and I was not feeling London and my life there anymore. And here all of a sudden, the opportunity to travel and work came to me and it brought me to Nigeria.

Have you discovered that missing, vital part of life's rhythm now that you are in Nigeria?

I have made Nigeria my home because Nigeria makes me feel so alive and happy. So, yes, I have. I have realized that this is the place I wanted to be. I wake up in the morning and I am grateful to start a new and hectic day. I wake up and I am excited about what we at Kinabuti are creating day by day. When I launched Kinabuti, I knew I wanted it to be a Nigerian-Italian Label, inspired by Nigeria, produced in Nigeria, with Italian professionalism. It is being run and operated by Italians and Nigerians. The crew is working together on the fashion Label and on the social projects.

How do you see fashion business here?
I definitely see a difference; I see amazing and creative professionals who have created a name for themselves in Nigeria, Africa and around the world. I see people passionate and determined to make it happen. People are proud of where they come from and are celebrating this through their clothes, hence , designers that have made Nigeria proud. I participated in the Arise Fashion week and I was so impressed by what I saw on the runaways and by the audience. Everyone was so excited and mesmerized by the several shows and organizations.

Of all businesses, why fashion?
As a kid, I could not rightly pronounce my long lengthy name, Caterina Bortolussi. That was how Kinabuti came about. It is a name that has been with me since I was a kid. When I was in London, I was living with an Aussie woman and she heard my mum during her stay with me calling me Kina and she asked why. So, I told her it was my nickname and a few people knew about it. She loved it and started calling me Kinabuti. It resonated inside of me and I knew that my dream of designing clothes, no matter how far I was from reaching it from a Barclays Skycraper in Canary Wharf would be called Kinabuti.

What is the difference between Kinabuti fashion and Kinabuti Laboratory?

The two are one and the same. They are a synergy that creates strength. Kinabuti Fashion Label which we call Kinabuti Wardrobe produces our clothes. The Kinabuti Laboratory implements social projects to inspire the youths, create capacity, create job opportunities and development in the fashion industry. To grow a fashion industry in Nigeria, we need people who have professional skills and we need the right framework. If the industry grows, more jobs will be created and more income opportunities would be obtained. An economy that grows with sustainability and strong foundations should boost healthy development that benefits the people.

What is the mission of the Kinabuti Laboratory?
Through our Kinabuti Laboratory, our non-profit social enterprise and the driving force of all our projects, we identify, develop and implement projects aimed at the younger generation with the purpose of instigating change by encouraging them to redefine their aspirations and give shape to their own potential through vocational education, training programme and creating job opportunities.

How was the launch of your first collection in Rivers State?

We launched our first collection in Port Harcourt in December 2010. I have been working in Port Harcourt since 2007. In 2009, we held the ION International Film Festival, and in 2010,we had the Africa International Film Festival. We wanted to create an impact in the communities where we had been operating. We wanted to carry a message stronger than just beautiful and feminine clothes. We want fashion to be a vehicle, our vehicle and that was how we decided to work with girls from the waterside and make them our models, train them, make them believe in themselves and celebrate where they hail from.

Who inspires you?
My friends in Nigeria, people, arts, moments, structures and characters are my main sources of inspiration. My first collection was inspired by Lady Oscar, a lady chevalier born before the French Revolution. She was a very strong woman but at the same time, so beautiful and courageous.