Home Away From Home is a series that spotlights BIPOC brands that are adding a cultural essence to everyday items. This allows anyone to always have a piece of their culture in their own space without ever feeling homesick or out of touch with their roots. We're exploring the stories of the individuals behind the brands that have touched people's hearts through their products and have allowed people to feel at home anywhere.
Inspiration often comes to us when we least expect it, which is exactly what happened when founder of Kultured Kitchens, Krystal "Adowah" Lofton was watching a Netflix special featuring the rapper, Killer Mike. Lofton explains that Killer Mike only wanted to buy and use products from Black-owned businesses, which faltered when he went into his kitchen and realized there wasn't anything he could use due to the lack of Black-owned dinnerware brands. An instant lightbulb went off in Lofton's mind to create the solution to the problem and the change she wanted to see.
"The light bulb went off. I needed to change that."
Lofton grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood where she often felt disconnected to her own African culture and identity. Being the only African-American student in her classroom, she sought out to learn more about her African roots as she attended college. During college, Lofton fell in love with all the different aspects of her African culture including the history, when she began understanding that culture is intentional—that it deserves to be felt and shared properly. The idea of Kultured Kitchens may have been inspired by the lack of diversity within home brands, but Lofton's intent to share the beauty of African culture is what brought her designs to life.
Meet the Collections
It was essential to share the stories behind each collection and to educate consumers. "It's important for you not just to know the product, but to know the reasons and the names behind them," notes Lofton."They're really powerful people. We wanted it to be powerful and distinct."
With thorough research from the African continent, Lofton highlights the fact that all patterns are authentic mud cloth designs. "You're not getting African-inspired," emphasizes Lofton. "You're actually getting something that is authentic."
The Assata is not only the best-selling flagship collection, but it's also deeply special to Lofton. The collection was collaboratively designed with her nine year old daughter, Assata who was named after Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army who is now exiled in Cuba. Lofton and her daughter would stay up together looking at various drawings and choosing the patterns for the flatware, plates, and platters. "This particular collection always kind of speaks differently to me because when she talks about it, her face lights up," says Lofton about her daughter. "So when her face lights up, of course, mom lights up too."
Lofton describes Shakur's story of community as both revolutionary and elegant. While these terms aren't commonly used together, it is the perfect combination that defines Shakur. "All of the designs in the Assata pattern speak to her story," says Lofton.
The Nzinga pattern is named after Queen Nzinga from the Angola tribe in Africa, who was also a warrior queen who courageously fought off the Portuguese during enslavement. The Nzinga collection consists of royalty patterns to portray Queen Nzinga leading her subjects, while also emphasizing that everyone has a bit of a royal essence to themselves.
The Zulu tribe and people are widely known for their masterful uses of bead art, which is translated through the collection's patterns. The Zulu beadwork is ancient because it's passed down from mother to daughter, and the different colors and designs are a form of love messages that are sent from wives to warriors. "The story is that when the Zulu warriors would go off to war, their wives would make these elaborate beaded necklaces for them," explains Lofton. "The husbands knew based upon the direction of the triangles and the colors used, what the wife was trying to say."
"You're not getting African-inspired, you're actually getting something that is authentic."
Plant and Nurture Your Dream
Kultured Kitchen has been featured in Vanity Fair, UK Vogue, and The New York Times, but this success didn't happen overnight. Rather, it was the result of a steady and thoughtful pace. The brand grew with time, patience, and much nurturing.
Lofton says it’s important for individuals to pursue their ideas because they were given to them for a reason, and that it's worth trying to make it into a reality rather than letting it sit in the back of your head.
She points out that dreams resemble plants: they need to be taken good care of to grow and bloom, so it's crucial to protect your dream in its beginning stages without allowing others to dictate its future. "Sometimes your dream is too small to share, it's infant. It's like a small plant, you have to water it yourself, you have to put the sunshine on it yourself," says Lofton. "You can't let other peoples’ idea of what's right, wrong, or stupid get in the way because it will knock over your small plant."
She believes in being resilient with your idea and not letting others hinder you from making it happen. "It was given to you for a reason and everyone else doesn't have to understand or agree but it was given to you, not them," states Lofton. "They're not supposed to understand."
More Products on the Way
Kultured Kitchen is currently working on expanding their line, with dinnerware platters and serveware coming out soon. They’ll also be launching legacy boxes, where customers can monogram products for special occasions like weddings.
Two more collections will be dropping by the end of this year and, by next year, Kultured Kitchens is expected to launch their paper plates. Customers will be able to buy disposable paper plates for any occasion. Lofton is looking forward to offering the brand's products at a lower cost with the paper plates, so more people can learn about the history and stories behind the collections.