Some Liberians in the Liberian diaspora have been agents of change towards the fashion industry. The founder of ‘Runway Liberia International’ Junda Morris Kennedy hosts an event annually called ‘Runway Liberia Showcase’. The fashion marketing personality who is a daughter of the soil has hosted several events in Liberia that have promoted Liberian models and fashion designers. Her platform has given models and designers the opportunity to express their arts. In Conversation with Junda, she expressed her thoughts on the fashion industry and her experiences over the time as a runway host in Liberia. Junda said: ‘’ I work in the fashion industry in America; I serve as a brand influencer. Looking at the African fashion industry when I started, Liberia was nowhere in the lead. Whenever I make a proposal to my foreign partners to recruit Liberian models and designers, they just look at me as though I am a joker. So this day I decided to create a platform that allowed me to brand the Liberian fashion industry without getting questioned. I started with a hundred dollar (100 USD) and a dream. That’s when I created the ‘Runway Liberia’.
Interviewer: as a Liberian in the diaspora, what motivated you to bring the runway to Liberia?
Junda: I work in the fashion industry in America; I serve as a brand influencer. Looking at the African fashion industry when I started, Liberia was nowhere in the lead. Whenever I make a proposal to my foreign partners to recruit Liberian models and designers, they just look at me as though I am a joker. So this day I decided to create a platform that allowed me to brand the Liberian fashion industry without getting questioned. I started with a hundred dollar (100 USD) and a dream. That’s when I created the ‘Runway Liberia’. However to answer this question my inspiration came from my love and compassion for Liberia. My goal was to bring Liberian fashion and creativity to an international spotlight.
Interviewer: Working with Liberian models and designers, what difficulties did you face?
Junda: I’ll say disloyalty. When I started ‘RunwayLiberia’ my ultimate goal was to give models and designers global publicity. But unfortunately, I didn’t see a lot of cooperation. Before taking up this vision I had travelled from America to Liberia lobbying for funds to rent a hall for an event that could give the fashion industry an international recognition but when I got to Liberia I received a lot of backlashes from models and designers whom I soaked to help. For me, my platform is a nonprofit one…. it’s all in the interest of Liberian models and designers how I wish they could see it. Liberians are out there seeing how other African countries are ahead of us in fashion, they are even supporting them, some of them want to travel and appear on the runway there, but to support their own event it’s a problem for them. It’s very disappointing and disheartening; models and designer want to travel to places like Ghana and Nigerian to do a fashion show but when it’s hosted in Liberia they turn blind eye to it.
Interviewer: How do you think the fashion industry can improve?
Junda: The fashion industry to me can improve, if Liberians start supporting their own thing. Sometimes it’s not about the money and the fame, the aspiring models and designer in Liberia aren’t really looking at pushing the industry, but rather they all thinking about getting paid for events that are set for their own publicity. When I hosted ‘Runway Liberia’, like I said I had only a hundred (100USD) and a dream, I rented an event hall that cost me almost 2000 dollar, at that time I had not a Penney in my purse. I had no job, I had just gotten out of a situation that took everything away from me, but I really didn’t care it was all about my country and making my dreams reality. After I rented that hall a friend of mine gave me 500 hundred dollars and said “Junda I believe in you, because i know you are a creative” after I got the five hundred I wrote proposal to lonestar cell( the cellphone company in Liberia) and my other international partners who helped made the event a reality. Fastforward, after I made the event a reality instead of Liberians thanking me, they started to spread gossip, some of them whom didn’t publicize the event to get more people to come so that atleast we could have generated stapens for the models requested to get paid, in the end I had no money left all the money was poured on the event. However, to answer this question the fashion industry can improve if and only if the models and designers are willing to make sacrifices and work selflessly to shove the industry to a global recognition standpoint then; they will start getting paid.
Interviewer: who are some of your favorite writers, fashion designers, stylists, photographers?
Junda: Well,I have few personalities in the fashion industry I would like to tag. Firstly, I will mention Hesta Baker; she’s been a powerhouse and trailblazer towards the Liberian fashion industry in America. For designers it’s Laurice Monsio Saba; the owner of ‘Monsio couture, Patmol Cole, and Gertrude Ross and lastly for photographer it’s Richard and Sheikh from spoon TV.
Junda is one of the many trailblazers in the fashion industry, she has made airwaves with her platform(RUNWAY LIBERIA INTERNATIONAL). After Junda many other Liberians like patmol cole has also been engaged into hosting runway events, he is also a young liberian that has so much passion for fashion and he believes that liberian models and designers meet the criteria to occupy a space in the international fashion industry.