Jemie Ilunga

Jemie Ilunga inspired by background to promote inclusion through fashion

When Jemie Ilunga came to America she could barely speak English. However, she knew the language of fashion.

Growing up in Africa, she was first introduced to the fashion industry by a local business owner.

“When I was nine years old [a clothing business] was around the corner, and he did school uniforms,” she said. “I was just mesmerized. The way he took fabric and manipulated it and made it into a garment. Right after [that] I started drawing.”

Jemie’s family moved to America when she was 12 years old. The language barrier proved to be a struggle for Jemie, and adjusting to life in America is still an ongoing process.

“I came with no knowledge of English at all,” she said. “It’s very hard, and the atmosphere is very different here. I still feel very foreign but settled.”

This foreign feeling has inspired Jemie since she began studying fashion.

“I always remember how uncomfortable I was with my new surroundings,” Jemie said. “I want to bring in other cultures to make them feel at home and make that better in the future. Because I’m from Africa I was inspired by my own culture. I wanted to charge forward with my goal and with my passion.”

Jemie hopes to make people from diverse backgrounds feel at home by creating her own clothing company that uses aspects of many different cultures in its designs.

“I want it [the company] to be inclusive of all cultures,” Jemie said. “I want them to come to work and be happy. I want it to be helpful.”

It is not easy to transition to life in a new country, learn a different language and pursue a career in fashion, but Jemie’s persistence has and will continue to pay off.

“I didn’t think I would make it this far,” Jemie said. “I just jumped on the boat and never looked back. All the no’s kept me moving forward.”