“A product divine in nature, helping women feel whole, remembered, mature, protected, spiritual, and fashionable with her shape and age in mind.”
That’s the goal of MimiZuri, a new clothing line that is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based, startup designer Denise Gordon. Denise’s “reinvention of herself” came after many years of humanitarian and development service on the African continent for the U.S. State Department, United Nations, and other organizations. Denise also had many gigs as a singer/composer, produced her own CD, and was a principal in a 4-season television show in Kenya, where she eventually settled.
The 59-year-old is the mother of a 10-year-old son, Kenyon, and is married to Doug, who just happens to be 19 years her junior (get it, girl!). The native New Yorker moved her family from Nairobi to L.A. last year because she not only missed the states but wanted to bring her vibrant African-inspired designs to these shores.
MimiZuri is Swahili for “Beautiful Me,” and the clothing line accentuates a mature woman’s strong points, such as perhaps a prominent derriere, with lively but flattering African prints. The attractive pieces also mask problem areas like belly fat, back fat and spare tires. Arms can be a bit of a problem area as well for some women especially as we age and so Denise offers bell sleeves from sizes small to large.
The line is, as Denise puts it, “engineered” in Kenya by a master tailor, then, exported to the U.S. The pieces can also be accompanied by made-to-order matching bracelets, clutch purses, stately necklaces, and eye-catching earrings.
The ever-beautiful Denise was “vending” her line at the 11-day Pan African Film and Arts Festival in L.A. last February. Between introducing interested shoppers to her fashions, Denise chatted with 50BOLD about her concepts. “I curate my fashion line,” says Denise, noting that she selects the colorful fabrics used and designs the outfits.
At this time, MimiZuri has a limited style portfolio, but Denise plans to add more pieces in the very near future! Sizes for women currently run from 6 to 22. Specific prints vary by what’s available in the African marketplace, but Denise says she purchases large bolts of fabric. The entrepreneur also offers custom outfits, but these take longer to produce. Expanding her offerings due to a high demand, Denise has also recently added boys and men’s shirts.
Someone who first delves into a new business venture cannot really expect to support themselves entirely from it, so Denise says she’s very ”open” to teaching International Relations at a local university. “If I were trying to live off my MimiZuri profits now, I’d be skinny,” she said jokingly. But Denise is holding onto her faith and working hard to make her dreams for success quickly materialize, “Afterall, Diane von Furstenberg immigrated to the U.S. with a suitcase of samples, and look where she is now!” Denise also has her sights set on a few retailers. “Ideally, I’d also like my designs to be sold at a mid-level department store like Macy’s,” she enthuses. In addition, Denise would like to create her own prints for the fabrics and add a high-end line at some point.
Denise asserts that she has to rely on E-commerce for her line because vending is expensive and rather enervating “for this 50-plus woman!” She is now selling her designs on Etsy.com but is researching other platforms. Denise is developing a website as well where people can buy her clothing line directly. Currently, the featured designs are only for one season, primarily for cool to warmer climates.
In the meantime, the always confident, ever progressive, Denise, is spreading the good word about her fashions and for now, Cali seems to be the ideal place to stake her fashion roots. “I’m in Hollywood and would like to be able to contribute a taste of Africa to a red carpet event!”
Who knows, California dreamin’ might become a reality sooner than Denise thinks!
All of the fashions pictured can be found on Denise’s Etsy site. If you’re interested in purchasing or getting more information about MimiZuri fashions or the imported fabrics used, visit etsy.com/shop/mimizuridesigns; on Instagram@i_love_mimizuri, or via email at MimiZuriAfrica@Gmail.com.