LaKeisha Wolf is the Executive Director of the Ujamaa Collective located in Pittsburgh, PA. They just embarked on a new venture to create their own private line of skirts and accessories that just happen to be flying off the shelves. Royal Roots Collection is brand that can add style and function to your wardrobe.
1. Tell me about the new skirt designs that you now carry?
Ujamaa Collective is carrying our own brand of skirts and accessories called the Royal Roots Collection! The line was designed locally by Dawn Surgest of RubyDawn Designs, who is a member of our non-profit. We traveled to Karagwe, Tanzania, located in East Africa to have them produced fair trade by a group of women and young people. The fabrics are sourced from Uganda and Tanzania and feature beautiful, vibrant African prints, deep batiks, and one of a kind special occasion prints. Royal Roots include mini, midi and maxi skirts in sizes XS to XXL. We also carry an assortment of small clutch bags and wristlets that match the skirts, as well as bow ties (for neck or head) and neckties.
2. What inspired them?
The inspiration for creating the line was two-fold. First, we were listening to what many of our boutique customers were expressing in regards to the kind of clothing and fashion they were seeking. I think many women of color, specifically African American women, are looking for ways to represent cultural in private and professional settings and aren’t able to find what they’re looking for. In addition, Ujamaa Collective holds fair trade as a value near and dear to our hearts, so as I researched into what other fair trade fashion designers and merchants were offering, I just didn’t see the kinds of style and fabrics that were most appealing to us and our demographic. So we decided to create our own line. And Dawn the designer coined the name “Royal Roots” because she felt that was exactly the connection we were offering our customers- a contemporary design in traditional African print.
3. How can people get them?
Currently Royal Roots Collection is only available in our Pittsburgh-based boutique, located at 1901 Centre Avenue in the Hill District, 15219. We’re just a few minutes from downtown and our assortment of handmade items for women, men, children and home are worth the visit. I would tell folks to come quickly because these skirts are flying out the door! We won’t have a new collection in our boutique until early next year most likely.
Because of it’s handmade nature, there’s also a range within each skirt size; for instance size small ranges from 28-31 inches, medium 32-35 inches, etc. The skirts slip on over the hips or over the head and offer a strip of elastic in the back waistline to offer give.
5. How do you suggest that people fit them in their wardrobe?
These skirts are awesome because they’re so versatile! They can be dressed up or down and work for women of all ages and backgrounds. The mini is not too short for most women, and on average falls not too far above the knee. The midi is probably the most “professional” looking because it’s about calf-length and pairs well with a blouse for office settings and business meetings. In my opinion, the maxi is the most fun because it can flow elegant for special occasions and can also be flipped and worn with a tank top and sandals for a feminine, easy breezy day. And depending on your body type and preference, some women wear the skirts high-waisted or low on their hips.
6. Any other information we should know
Ujamaa Collective’s Boutique offers fair trade fashion and gifts handmade by local and global artisans of African descent. Ujamaa is a tax-exempt non-profit organization. Our website is www.ujamaacollective.org and our contact # is 412-228-5160. The Royal Roots skirts are each handmade by various youth and women learning the art of sewing in a poverty-alleviation program in Tanzania. The sale of this collection supports creative cooperation and self-help for women and youth in both Tanzania and Pittsburgh.