MONARCH: Let’s start from the beginning. You were born in Zambia. When did you come to the United States?
FISKANI KAIRA: I was born in Zambia. I came to America when I was three years old, so I was a toddler. My parents moved here for work. We ended up moving back to Zambia, I think when I was about seven or eight.
MONARCH: African names typically have a meaning. So tell us what yours means.
FISKANI KAIRA: Most Nigerians have this thing for names. Fiskani means the completion, and Kaira is my last name. And I’m my mother’s last child. It just means the very end, a completion of something.
MONARCH: When did your love for fashion begin?
FISKANI KAIRA: I have loved fashion since I can remember, so let’s take it back to maybe five or six, seven at the most. I played in my mother’s clothing. I was intrigued by so many things. I tried to put my little feet in her shoes and wear her gloves. Her closet was my happy space. I have love clothing as far back as I can remember.
MONARCH: So your parents probably knew that you would do something in fashion.
FISKANI KAIRA: Yeah, I’m sure if you’ve known me since I was a teenager and even younger, my interest was always fashion; I just couldn’t run away from it. It was always was always what sparked my interest.
MONARCH: Am I right that you dropped out of college to pursue your dreams? And how did your African parents deal with that?
FISKANI KAIRA: At the time, not so good. First let me say this as a disclaimer: Everyone should finish school. The decision I made to leave school was based on a calling I felt that was so big I had to respond to it. Not everyone gets that calling, but if you have it and you make such a decision, you just have to go through with it. And mine was fashion.
MONARCH: So what age would you say you were when that transition happened and when you got into the fashion world?
FISKANI KAIRA: When I left school, I had about a year left, so I was about 20. With no real plan, I just got out there. I moved to Atlanta because my sister lived there. Then I did internships in New York and New Jersey, but my real journey began in Atlanta.
MONARCH: Do you remember your first styling job that you ever had?
FISKANI KAIRA: Atlanta and music go hand in hand, so my first paid job was a music client.
MONARCH: Are you actively styling now?
FISKANI KAIRA: That’s a running joke. I started the Ivy Showroom in Atlanta. After years and years of styling, I did tours. I traveled the world. I’ve styled all these people you could think of, all these celebrities, and I said I’m going to retire and open a showroom. I’m going to put all these amazing clothes in it. And I will provide two stylists or whoever just needs something to wear for a special occasion. I’ll just kind of sit back and they’ll pick whatever they want and meet me at the register; you pay for whatever you need, and you go on your way. And that was my big retirement from styling. The joke has been on me ever since. I’ve styled more people in this retirement than when I actually was the “stylist.” So I guess you never stop. “What makes the Ivy Showroom different is that it’s a beautiful space, thousands of square feet of just tons of wardrobe from different designers and inclusive and welcoming to all.” Introduces the House of Fiskani and expresses her process, passion, and purpose.
MONARCH: How much of Zambia do you pull from when styling for yourself or a client?
FISKANI KAIRA: That’s interesting. I think as a stylist, one should be authentic. So when I style someone, it should be to enhance their look so it’s authentically theirs. I just enhance what you have going right. So whether its Zambian style or American or Atlanta or anywhere else, I just try to make sure it’s authentically yours. MONARCH: What were some crucial things that you learned along this journey of entrepreneurship, in running a business? For a lot of entrepreneurs, they get into it because of passion. You start something that you love. Then, when you turn it into a business, you realize, “Oh my god, accounting, financing…”. Do I have an accountant? Do I have an attorney? Do I have the funds? Talk to me about some of those challenges or some or those things that you did, that you put in place that maybe were the smartest things you could have done that have helped set your foundation. FISKANI KAIRA: Early on, it was just passion. I was just helter-skelter, just moving, just happy to be working. You book me, you book me, and then the IRS is like “You owe this,” and I’m like “Wait, wait, wait… How come I owe this?” You know, this is a business, so it needs to be structured like a business. I’m still passionate and very happy that I could turn what I am passionate about into a business.