Kin celebrates the roots of African design through honoring the textiles, landscapes and fashions that create vibrant cultures within the continent’s different countries. Pictured, Olumo design

Kin celebrates the roots of African design through honoring the textiles, landscapes and fashions that create vibrant cultures within the continent’s different countries. Pictured, Olumo design


Generating Self-Pride and Cultural Respect the Goal for Kin

Meeting during their time as students at the University of Southern California, Kameni Ngahdeu and Kwabena Osei-Larbi were mission driven from the start of their friendship and found comfort in their shared cultural backgrounds. Hailing from West Africa, Ngahdeu was raised in Cameroon and Osei-Larbi was born in Ghana but raised in Nigeria and lived in Syria before traveling to the United States to attend college on the West Coast. While they shared cultural elements of which they were proud, the pair were also connected through the negativity they experienced regarding their heritage.

“We both had similar experiences growing up,” Osei-Larbi said. “At times we were made to feel like we weren’t meant to be proud of our African heritage or backgrounds or even the color of our skin.”

With their inspiration rooted in their respective home countries in Africa, Ngahdeu taps into the fashion culture from his neighborhood in Cameroon, where unique style was essential, with members of the community creating their own approaches to clothing in order to stand out. For Osei-Larbi, it was the ambition of his mother, who pursued higher education while raising three children in addition to acting as an agent selling fabrics from Ghana to businesses in Nigeria and Syria. Arriving in the U.S. in 2010, Ngahdeu feels grateful for his opportunity to engage with different cultures, but he, too, felt there was a negative prejudgment toward the homeland that he loved.

“Something that was very striking was how when I said I was Cameroonian, but also when I would say it’s in Africa, the response I was getting was very negative,” Ngahdeu said. “It was not telling of my experience [growing up].”

Previously business partners in college, when they launched Kaydabi, a mobile-gaming studio that blended entertainment and with philanthropic action, Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi embarked on creating a fashion product that would allow them to showcase the beauty of African countries. After a few years in development, Kin was born in Los Angeles as a collection of timepieces whose designs were based on artistry inspired by traditional African style with a luxury feel at an affordable price to ensure accessibility for the quality watches. The first Kin collection is available at $165 direct-to-consumer on

“The watch industry is typically elegant, in a class of sophistication. Those unfortunately are not often the words that are associated with Africa,” Osei-Larbi said. “We thought it would be a great way to use watches to change that narrative. You’ll see the continent and the people on the continent in a different light.”

Making these timepieces is more than creating watches for Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi, as they create quality pieces from Swiss movements and Italian leather. Styles include the Olumo, which honors a mountain that is central to Abeokuta, Ogun, in Nigeria and the Djenné, which features a Malian bògòlanfini pattern. The San is inspired by a town in the Ségou area of Mali, which is central to the creation of bògòlanfini fabric. While Kin production currently takes place through a trusted partner in China, the Kin founders are hoping to one day shift all production to Africa and source leather from the growing market in Ethiopia in order to give back to the continent they are honoring while showcasing the artistry of its different regions.

“It’s great and important to be celebrated and to take pride in who you are and take pride in your background,” Ngahdeu said. “Having been at a point where we are able to sit here and do that has made us feel better about ourselves. That is something we want to show through the watches. Make people feel prideful—this is who I am, I am okay, and I am happy about that.”

Through Kin’s mission of making more than a watch, Ngahdeu and Osei-Larbi are also organizing a philanthropic arm of Kin to raise awareness and funds for important causes to which the brand’s clients can relate. At the top of the list are environmental-protection organizations, educational initiatives to inspire children—particularly those in elementary school, and U.S.-based social-justice programs that promote racial equity, as a large segment of Kin’s clientele comprises African-American customers. Through these initiatives, Kin’s founders are growing their business into a larger company, but their goals rely on tending to the smaller details.

“For me, watches were always a subtle way to make a powerful statement and complete your outfit. I was really drawn to them for a long time,” Osei-Larbi said. “We include a handwritten note to welcome each person into the community. It’s not the most scalable approach, but we make sure we take the time to do so to make them feel welcome.”