Kahindo Mateene – Congolese Gal in NYC

Brooklyn Masuku

Born in Uganda to Congolese parents, Kahindo Mateene is the founder & CEO of Kahindo- A New York based Women’s Wear Contemporary Brand. Mateene’s love affair for color, texture and print started at an early age having lived in several countries and exposed to different cultures.

From completing the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Residence Program in 2011 and in 2013 she landed a spot as a contestant on Season 12 of Lifetime Network’s Emmy-Nominated show: Project Runway.

Kahindo believes that “When you empower women, you empower a whole society“!

Join us as we spill the full tea about Kahindo.

Can you give us a little description of who  Kahindo Mateene is besides the CEO of a fashion brand?

I am Congolese, a Pan Africanist, an entrepreneur, an optimistic and God fearing. I love my continent, my family and friends and enjoy traveling”.

What inspired the ‘Self Title of your Fashion Brand’?

“I actually rebranded from Modahnik (an anagram of Kahindo and M, my last initial) to KAHINDO when I moved to New York from Chicago. The reason being that I wanted to be as authentic as possible, and it doesn’t get better than having a namesake label. In my tribe, Munyanga, my name means a girl born after a line of boys,  so it is well fitting because I hope to expand into Menswear and Kahindo would work well for Men as it does for Women”, she explains.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock (10236786gi)
Yolonda Ross
‘The Dead Don’t Die’ premiere and opening ceremony, 72nd Cannes Film Festival, France – 14 May 2019

In the creation of Kahindo, whats your most favorite and Iconic piece?

The Flotus dress from my Spring Summer 2012 collection. I named it after Michelle Obama, the First Lady Of The United States, because she truly embodies the KAHINDO Woman who is bold, powerful, intelligent and beautiful. My bold and colorful kimonos are also quickly becoming customer faves”.

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Why is the “African Heritage & Travel inspiration”  important to you when creating clothing especially designs & fabric?

“As a Congolese, an African in the Diaspora, I feel that I have a responsibility to tell authentic and positive stories about our culture and heritage and how diverse and beautiful it is, and I do that through fashion. I also want to create economic opportunities in Africa, so I am doing that through sourcing fabrics from Kenya and moving production to DRC Congo, in an effort to create sustainable jobs and pay a fair living wage to artisans”, she shares.

What makes Kahindo more rooted, different and authentic than the other fashion houses?

I think I have a different perspective, a Pan African one which influences my designs. I am Congolese, was born in Uganda, schooled in Kenya and lived in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Niger.

I love the continent and it is a constant source of inspiration, having traveled to Tanzania, South Africa, Mali, Ivory Coast and early on having been exposed to the diversity of Africa in an International boarding school in Kenya. I bring all of that and combine it with a western influence to create Afro chic pieces”, she says.


Project runway Season 12. Describe that very feeling?

Being selected to participate in Project Runway Season 12 was a dream come true, especially because I was picked from hundreds of designers. However short lived my time on the show was, I am proud that I was able to showcase my talent and my unique African perspective”.

Who has been your all-time favorite person/client to dress up?

“All my clients are a delight to dress up, especially whenever a client tries on a dress and her face lights up and there’s a huge smile on her face, that is what drives me. A special moment was dressing actress Yolonda Ross for Cannes this year“.

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One of your biggest achievements From 2009 till today?

“Never giving up and being tenacious. Being an entrepreneur is difficult and has its ebs and flows, and is sometimes extremely difficult. But it can also be extremely rewarding if you follow your dreams and never give up.

Women’s Month has passed but what is your ‘Biggest and Boldest’ advice to women who want to be a successful entrepreneur in the fashion/ creative industry?

Follow your vision, work hard and surround yourself with positivity. Be patient”, she says.

What’s next from the global and vibrant brand-   Kahindo?

My Spring Summer 2020 collection is my biggest undertaking so far. I collaborated with a Nigerian artist to develop a custom print, as well as working with RefuShe to develop a print made by refugee girls in Kenya. The collection is being made by women sewing cooperatives in DRC Congo and Chicago. This is the collection that is going to put me on the map and expose and grow my brand by being stocked in boutiques and high end department stores worldwide such as McMullen, Webster Miami, Moda Operandi, Bloomingdales and Matches Fashion. I want to build an African heritage fashion house that can rival the Tibi’s and Tory Burch’s of the fashion world.

From her work being featured in British Vogue, British Harpers Bazaar, Tatler, WWD, Huffington Post, Essence, Marie Claire, Chicago Sun-Times, New-African Woman Magazine, California Apparel News and Refinery 29.

We can proudly say Kahindo Mateene is representing herself in the most fashionably consistent way possible. The African continent should celebrate this trail-blazing fashion house which celebrates the core of being African!

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