All great stories start in someone’s garage or basement. Companies are born, rock bands are formed and long-held dreams find a pulse. It’s the same thing for Rhoda Klomega, founder of Delasie, a clothing brand with an African element utilizing meaningful fabrics. Klomega’s designs were born from her basement and continue to flourish today as the designer looks for a showroom and shopping workspace for her passion to grow.
“My joy for Delasie is a ripple effect. We want people to look good, feel good and do good,” said Klomega who gets excited talking about the process of watching her clients try on her custom designs, where they become transformed. “Women reach for a hug and men stand a little bit taller and prouder. They both walk like they know who they are.”
It’s fitting because losing sight of who you are was a strong theme in Klomega’s life as a transplant from Ghana. Moving to Saline, Michigan left Klomega feeling like she didn’t fit in and was one of the reasons why she slipped into depression but a sewing machine changed all that. The self-taught sewer quickly grew a reputation as a designer during her high school days continuing into her college years at Grand Valley State University, where she’s a computer and informations systems student. She’s also a graduate and second-place winner of the Spring GR entrepreneur training program as well as a Start Garden 5×5 competition winner, which helped fund and fuel her business.
Nsubra Fashion Event @ Downtown Market
Designer Rhoda Klomega
Friday, July 28
Beginning at 6 p.m.
$10 general admission
When she isn’t sewing, Klomega loves to cook, spending hours in the kitchen, and enjoys volunteering and meeting people and is always in the “black hole of Pinterest.” She’s also a voracious reader. “I’m leaning toward Audible so I can listen while I sew. I watch a lot of movies while I sew too.”
She also is a pro at pop-up shops where she learned about marketing and investigating her target customer.
“I was finding out how people learned about my business and physically seeing the process they went through to decide on their purchase,” said Klomega.
Pop-up shops turned out to be a great way to survey and research customers and clients. “Our clothing needs to be functional and men always have pockets and women don’t usually have pockets in our clothes even though we carry more stuff than men. As a result, women get surprised when they discover the clothes have pockets,” Klomega said.
This new-found business success, coupled with her proud immigrant roots, became the inspiration for a new line of clothing called Nsubra—which translates to mean ripple effect. Nsubra’s bold, colorful patterns mimic the ripple effect when a stone is thrown in the water and is the inspiration for a fashion show on Friday at the Downtown Market featuring fashions for women, men and children as well as accessories including handbags, wallets and jewelry.
Other fashion show highlights include music from DJ Adrian Butler, tropical and exotic scenery, a cash bar and models walking to African music as well as live mannequin models. Start Garden’s Paul Moore will host and purchases can be made at the fashion show or guests can place orders. Basically, “if you have a body and we can measure you, we can offer something for you,” said Klomega. “We come to clients and meet them where they are, taking measurements at work or homes or mutual locations.”
Looking forward, Delasie is planning a winter collection with fabrics featuring strong, positive meanings, most likely of African origin but the company’s vision and inspiration isn’t limited to that.
“I want the clothing to have a positive ripple effect,” said Klomega, who’s ensuring this happens by partnering with Arbor Circle. A portion of the proceeds from the fashion show will benefit Arbor Circle’s counseling programs, which include art therapy and services to immigrant families.
Nsubra takes place Friday, July 28, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Downtown Market, 435 Ionia St. SW. Tickets are $25 (VIP), $15 (standard) and $10 general admission if purchased before July 28. Prices increase $5 on the day of the show.
*Photos courtesy of Renato Pencina Jr. and Jamie Lynn Cheeks