I caught up with London based fashion designer Tina Lobondi to learn more about her award winning eponymous label and what motivates this amazing ‘Superwoman’ yes ‘Superwoman!!! ‘. The brand which was launched in Notting Hill London in 2011 is inspired by Tina’s African Heritage and focuses on creating elegant timeless pieces. She has been featured in countless publications and TV Channels which have included Marie Claire, Elle Magazine South Africa, Look Magazine, OK Magazine, BBC and Vogue Italia.
Above pic: Designer Tina Lobondi wearing one of her own designs
Tell us a bit about your background and fashion journey?
I am a fashion designer originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’ve been living in London for the past 10 years having relocated from Paris but started my brand about 5 ½ years ago. It’s been a great journey so far and I’ve worked with some amazing people such as British actress Thandie Newton and showcased internationally in countries such as Dubai and South Africa.
Describe your typical work day?
My typical work day consists of me waking up very early. I’m usually up by 6am and take my time to think about what I want to achieve that day or that week. Usually I also have a notebook with all my to do lists which I like to keep an eye on so I could make sure I keep track of what I’m trying to do because I get distracted quite easily, so having my list is very important to me. So sometimes it depends, I can have an interview with someone or fitting for someone who is going to an event or every six months as normally this is when we have the fashion shows.
What do you love about being a fashion designer?
What I love about being a fashion designer is the freedom that it gives me to create and to see something come to life because I always say a dress is not alive until it has been worn, until you can see movement into it so that’s the magic point, to be able to create something. Also now that I very much realise the impact that fashion and anything can have on other people’s lives, I think this is something we shouldn’t neglect as an artist .
What have been some of the obstacles you have had to overcome?
I think for me it was probably also having the right people around me because I really think an entourage is very very important for you to progress. I don’t think that when I moved to London I knew the right people because that was not my scene coming from France and it took me time to build and to meet the right people that I am working with now and also to have a studio that I can rely on to produce the clothes that were going to the stores. So that was a struggle because actually when I got my first order from a boutique I had no idea how to produce it so I had to rush and find something really fast so that was one of the struggles amongst 10 million.
What would you say has really contributed to your success in an overcrowded marketplace?
That’s a very good question because to be honest I don’t yet think of myself as successful yet because I haven’t yet achieved what I think I should be achieving with the brand and with everything that I started anyway. I think I’ve been very blessed and work really hard to get certain things, to get great images of my clothes, to get my clothes to be worn by certain people and to get to do the shows that I wanted to do but in the long term this is not my ultimate goal. I haven’t achieved that goal so I think I’m good and I’ve done good things but I don’t feel I am successful to the level that I want to be, that I see myself.
Above Pic: Noella Coursaris Musunka international model and philanthropist wearing Tina Lobondi
I noticed you have an empowering range of t-shirts, can you tell us more about that project?
The t-shirts that we have at the moment is for the Esimibi project, so basically what we are trying to do is to raise funds to send back to Congo for education. So what we do is buy school materials and organise recreational events for young children which are part of the Esimibi programme. Every time we raise enough funds we go to Congo organise our events, buy school materials and distribute that to the kids as part of the programme. And also what we are trying to do is to encourage people to fund the scholarship of the children as well to make sure that at the end of the day they stay in school because some of them are going through a lot difficulties with their parents not being able to afford to keep them in school. So some times their on/off and if we can really get people to come together to keep these children in school then that’s beyond Esimibi. For me we are doing a small act but at the end of the day Esimbi is much bigger, it’s every Congolese trying to do something good for the Congo.
British Actress Thandie Newton wearing a t-shirt from the ESIMBI range
Which women inspire you and why?
Thandie Newton is definitely one woman who really inspires me because I’ve been a fan of hers for a very long time. Maybe because of just that one role (referring to Thandie’s ER role as Makemba “Kem” Likasu, an administrator in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s health ministry) where I was just fascinated by the fictional work she done when she was in Congo and that made me think if someone who is not from Congo can do that even in a TV Series for our Country than I should be able to do more and something even bigger if I can. So this is the type of thing that inspires me.
What keeps you going?
I think it’s surrounding myself with positivity and just trying to block out the negativity and the things that don’t go as well as I planned and to put them aside so that I have time to refocus myself and start over if needed. But it is hard, it’s self-motivation and that also takes some kind of discipline to achieve. Basically I think What motivates people is to have a goal that’s bigger than yourself like when you have something that’s bigger than yourself you feel a sense of responsibility which you wouldn’t have if it was just you. Because If I feel like I am doing it for these kids ( in the DRC)and have a responsibility towards these kids so if I don’t want to wake up in the morning, I feel guilty where as if it was just for me I would perhaps stay in bed all day
What advice can you give to other aspiring designers out there?
Be prepared! It may sound like a cliché but surround yourself with people who believe in your work because during times where you’re going to have a crowd of people that don’t those people would matter a lot. And I think also it’s good to be mentally ready and know it’s a long road. It’s a journey it’s not something that will happen overnight. Be prepared and get ready and put save.
To learn more about Tina Lobondi Visit http://tinalobondi.com/
To learn more about the Esimbi project visit https://www.esimbi.org/