Nova Scotia

Atlantic Fashion Week highlights 11-year-old Nova Scotia designer

An 11-year-old girl from Hubbards, N.S., wanted to create unique clothes for her age group and her first collection is featured at this year's Atlantic Fashion Week.

Keilana Munden from Hubbards, N.S. wanted to design clothes for her age group that were unique

Keilana Munden and her mother, Melanie Mendez Munden, created the Kei Kai Koa label out of their home in Hubbards, N.S. They debuted the line at an Atlantic Fashion Week showcase this weekend. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

​Keilana Munden sports a purple-patterned hoodie featuring an image of her family's goldendoodle, a design she created after realizing she couldn't find anything she liked while back-to-school shopping.

"Everyone at school had the same thing and I wanted something unique," she says.

This weekend her first collection — anything but drab — was featured as part of an Atlantic Fashion Week showcase in Dartmouth Crossing. 

The 11-year-old says clothes for her age group are often "a little less colourful because everyone wants to look cool and not like a kid anymore because we're in Grade 6 and everyone wants to have darker colours."

Keilana Munden, 11, was inspired to design her own collection after realizing that there wasn't much variety in clothing for her age group. This jumpsuit's design was created from photos of kite surfers near Hubbards, N.S. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Digitally-enhanced family photos

Keilana started working with her mother, who is a rug designer, on the neon images that now grace hats, hoodies, jumpers, pants, shirts and even socks.

"We looked at photos of nature and animals, which we both love, and decided that was a good idea to put on clothes," Keilana says. "We had a lot of different ideas to collaborate on." 

They chose favourites from Melanie Mendez Munden's own photos — from the horse Keilana rides, to the family dog, to the shore near their home in Hubbards, N.S., — and digitally enhanced them with software Mendez Munden uses for her rug business. 

'Ode to Nova Scotia'

Finding compelling designs wasn't hard, says Mendez Munden. "The sunsets, sunrises, the trails, fall leaves ….[the designs] are basically our life in Nova Scotia. It's kind of an ode to Nova Scotia," she said. 

They started the project in mid-August and worked with a manufacturer in Toronto to get the designs printed on fabric. 
Saturday night was the first night they displayed the results. The label is called KeiKaiKoa named after Keilana, her brother and their dog. 

The KeiKaikKoa designs are created with software using photos scenes taken by Melanie Mendez Munden. She and her daughter say they wanted to reflect their lifestyle in Nova Scotia, from animals on nearby farms to kite surfers along the beach. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Atlantic Fashion Week founded Angela Campagnoni says technology has made it easier for people like Keilana to start experimenting with fashion at a young age. Even still, she's never featured a designer that young.

"The line was absolutely a joy to watch, super fun and bright and colourful," she said. "Now with social media and there being so many tools that people can use for web and selling online, it is so much easier to see a vision and make it happen."

Pop up shops

KeiKaiKoa and other designers's work will be available at weekend events in Dartmouth Crossing into December. Instead of several runway shows back to back, Campagnoni says this year's fashion week has smaller showcases featuring pop-up shops spread over nearly a month. 

"People don't have to wait for the looks they're seeing on their runway. They can literally shop after the show."

The KeiKaiKoa models are the youngest to take to the runway at this year's Atlantic Fashion Week. (Keikaikoa.com/Facebook)

Kids from Keilana's school modelled the clothing on the runway and some even ended up buying the outfits. 

"It was really nerve wracking but also very exciting," Keilana says. "No one was afraid, everyone was happy to be here and I was really glad."

Mendez Munden says they hope to set up e-commerce to make it easier to market and showcase the clothes but response from people well beyond their "tweens" was encouraging. Keilana says she's already thinking ahead to next year's collections and hopes to create new designs inspired by endangered species. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Over the past 11 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. Please send tips and feedback to elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca

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