Tue, May

Kutula by Africana infuses culture into high fashion

Kutula by Africana makes custom pieces with a pretty quick turnaround of typically a week and a half. Photo by Cory Osborne.


The View Park-Windsor Hills boutique makes original pieces for men, women, and children.

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By Tracey Edwards

Kutula means “to step into” or “leap forward” in Lozi, a Bantu language spoken in Zambia.  For sisters Nyambo and Kay Anuluoha, that embodies their desire to design clothes that reflects a person’s individual style.  It also allows them to honor their rich history and leap forward to a new era of fresh, contemporary fashion.

The View Park-Windsor Hills luxury boutique clothing store features a wide range of spectacular colors and textiles.  Kutula by Africana specializes in Ankara fabrics, from West and Southern Africa.  The material is primarily associated with Africa mainly because of the tribal-like patterns and motifs.

Nyambo and Kay have created outfits for a number of Hollywood stars, including actor David Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie “Selma,” and television personality Iyanla Vanzant, who is the host of “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” which is on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  

Celebrity stylists contact them often, and they designed the outfits worn by actor Chadwick Boseman when he played the character Black Panther in “Captain America: Civil War.”  Politicians, dignitaries, and professionals wear items from Kutula by Africana.  

“People come to us when they’re looking to have a show-stopping look,” Kay said.  “When they’re looking to standout in the boardroom, or they’re performers looking to stand out on stage.  Our clients want to look elegant.”

Kutula by Africana features a wide range of spectacular colors and
textiles. Photo by Jason Lewis

Nyambo and Kay both had corporate careers before they decided to take over the family business in 2014.  Their mother Francesca opened the store in 1971.  The original location was on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue.  It was moved to its present location on Slauson Avenue, just east of Overhill Drive in 2001.  The name of the store from it’s opening through 2014 was African Imports.  When the sisters took over, they rebranded the boutique as Kutula by Africana.  

While they were away from the family business for a number of years, their fashion sense followed them throughout their careers.

“There have been a lot of cases where we were in the boardroom and we were the only people of color,” Nyambo said.  “For us to come into the boardroom wearing a Kutula piece, whether it be a jacket or a pencil skirt, it shows that we’re proud of our culture, we’re proud of our heritage, and we’re infusing it into our wardrobe.”

Nyambo and Kay make custom pieces for men, women, and children with a pretty quick turnaround of typically a week and a half, and they make clothing that can fit into people’s wardrobes.

“Part of our focus on fashion is to have something that is classically inspired,” Kay said.  “A lot of people come here to figure out how they can incorporate this into their wardrobe.  These beautiful textiles, with lots of colors and unique prints.  We help people style for everyday wear, for red carpet, for galas, for all of those occasions.  We get a lot of people who want to revamp their wardrobe, and have unique core pieces.  We like to have things that can classically be a part of your wardrobe, but also stand out with bold cuts and bold patterns.”

While the sisters have only been running the store since 2014, they are well versed in the fashions that were created by African Imports, and they see reoccurring themes today.  

“We’re seeing a lot of parallels in this current timeframe,” Kay said.  “When we opened in the ’70s there was a huge cultural expression.  There was the natural hair, wearing dashikis, and there was a huge pro-black movement.  There was black pride.  We’ve seen that same cycle repeat about every 10 to 15 years.  Right now we’re in the midst of that.  Young people in their 20s, and even in their teens, and definitely people in their 30s and 40s, are coming in and wanting the same exact pieces that we sold in the ‘70s.  The same exact fabrics and the same styles.”

Kutula by Africana is located at 4438 W. Slauson Avenue.  Contact them at (323) 294-8151.  Visit their website at www.kutula.org, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.