Kisa Kisa is taking the fashion accessory industry by storm by making some of the most unique handbags on the market. Kisa Kisa Fashion bags were featured in ELLE Magazine, shown at Paris Fashion Week including a few television appearances which are huge accomplishments and accolades toward Kisa Kisa designs. With all of Kisa Kisa’s recent successes, BAHM Magazine wanted to reach out and share an interview with founder Kisa Williams.
Tell us about your life before Kisa Kisa Fashion. What was life like for you growing up with Sickle Cell Anemia? What age were you when you found out you had this disease that affects so many including children?
Life before Kisa Kisa was very simple. If you would have told the 20 year old me that one day I would own my own fashion brand and create clutches in the shape of a sickle cell, I would have thought; really? Needless to say I wasn’t even supposed to live past 5 years old. I was born with my disease, so I guess you could say I came out the womb knowing. Growing up with a chronic disease was not easy, especially when your disease is not well heard of. I was very aware that I was different from my friends growing up. Simple things like running or playing hopscotch would cause severe pain in my joints. At a very young age my mom introduced me to the world of arts and crafts and that’s where my love of all things creative started. I was told growing up so many times that I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that because of my limitations. And I never EVER let those words affect me. I would always find a way around my limitations.
I grew up in Austin and moved to Houston (job transfer- Real Estate Industry) and quickly fell in love with the city. It’s one of the most diverse cities in the USA. I was exposed to different fabric and textiles from many different countries. I always try to use Ankara in my designs or something from Honduras or even Puerto Rico. In my mid 40’s I decided to go back to school and study Fashion Design/ Fashion Merchandising at Houston Community College. My very first collection was designed around donated fabric from my professors.
Who or what was your inspiration to push forward and succeed?
My sister has always pushed me to reach for the stars and never give up. I have faced a lot of ups and downs in my life and my sister has always been there for me. All the things I have gone through with my disease has given me a ‘don’t give up’ mentality. And I think what I am doing is pretty darn special. There is not one person in the fashion industry doing what I am doing!
What was the toughest part for you when you set your sites on your new goals?
Making sure I have a great team with me is very important.
Why handbags? What led you to start designing?
I have had a love affair with handbags since I was a very young girl. I will buy a handbag before I buy a pair of shoes. I can remember spending hours in my mom’s closet, mixing and matching her handbags with her shoes and accessories. While attending Houston Community College I decided to take an elective handbag course, and like they say, the rest is history.
Your designs are very unique and organic. What inspires your handbag designs? Tell us about your round bag in a square world concept.
Things in nature inspire my designs (the feathers on the back of a bird, fresh cut grass, even the color of the inside of a flower). People also inspire me, 90% of my bags are named after my family and friends or people who have inspired me in some way. And the fabric used on a handbag represents them. For example The Rosetta Bag (named after my mom) is a bold yellow fabric with hummingbirds and peony flowers all over it. Before her passing (Age 10) we would bake hummingbird cakes together, by looking at the fabric you can see exactly who my mom was. I am definitely a round handbag in a sea of square handbags. All you have to do is look around, my bags are one-of-a-kind and unique, just like me.
Another unique part of your designs are other accompanying accessories like gloves, jewelry, and masks. Tell us a bit about your accessories, how did you come up with these very unique ideas?
Once the pandemic hit, we were asked by some of our customers to make matching face masks. One of my most popular clutches that we sell is the Love Glove Clutch. The clutch has a fingerless glove attached to the clutch, this way you will never lose your clutch and it will be very difficult for someone to snatch your clutch. It was designed for me because I was out with my friends at a club and I wanted to sit my clutch down on the table but it was dark and I couldn’t tell if the table was clean or not. The next day I went through my things and found a glove and sewed it right to the clutch. Kisa Kisa is really about accessories and how they can change an outfit.
We see that you use vegan suede and 100% cotton for your materials. Why do you think it so important for you to be eco-friendly in our modern fashion world?
The fashion industry is the most wasteful industry to date and I wanted to make sure we did not leave a large footprint. A large percentage of my fabrics are reusable fabric. All the blue jeans used are my jeans. I often thrift and use pre worn skirts or dresses in my designs.
What are your biggest and most memorable successes?
Showing in Paris – enough said. In 2019 I was asked by a fashion designer if I could make a capsule collection to accompany her designs during PFW. It was my biggest success because I was only 3 ½ years into my fashion journey. I was unable to travel to Paris because of health reasons, but I watched a live stream of the show, and I cried like a baby watching the whole thing. Three days after the show, the same company that produced the show, invited me to show this year during NYWF 2021.
We know a portion of each Kisa Kisa handbag sale is donated to Sickle Cell Anemia, please tell us a bit about the donations. Why are these donations are so important to so many people? Where can readers and future customers find you to purchase a fabulous bag or to find out more about Sickle Cell Anemia?
Every year I donate a portion of my sales to The Sickle Cell Foundation, Marc Thomas of Austin, I also donate handbags for raffles and giveaways. This organization is very dear to my heart, it was started in my hometown of Austin, Texas. They not only bring awareness to my disease but they also help with things like, utility bills, rent assistance, rides to and from the doctor and even help with groceries. For a person like me, who may be in the hospital for months, and out of work things that they provide can be so helpful and lifesaving.
Where will your designs take us for 2022 and what do you see in the future for you and Kisa Kisa Fashion?
The future for Kisa Kisa will continue to play with different shapes and sizes. I’m actually working on a backpack right now. I designed a triangle bag for PFW 2019 so I will be introducing that in 2022.
Where can readers and future customers find you? What is your website address and social media accounts?
Kisa, you are such an inspirational person. You don’t let anything get you down and you are always the first one up to help and inspire others. Is there something you would like to impart to our readers?
Is there anything else you’d like to have profiled that is not covered in this interview? If yes, please tell us about it here.
I am answering these questions from my bed, I’m recuperating from a knee replacement that I had only a few days ago. I sometimes have to run my business from my bed. I source fabric, process orders, sketch designs and even cut fabric from my bed. That’s just the nature of my disease. One day I could be fine and the next day I’m in tremendous pain and cannot walk. I say all of this because if I can do it (countless comas, both hip replaced, now knee replaced) you can do it too. Since graduation, I go back each semester and speak to first year fashion students and I share this same statement with them. And if I can just inspire ONE, just ONE… then my job is done.
PERFECT for any occasion. Equally at home to accessorize a little black dress or your favorite denim blues. This 10” clutch is handmade with love in the US.