An Interview With Toronto Fashion Designer Kendra Francis

I was given the opportunity to sit down with the lovely and extremely talented Kendra Francis of Franke clothing.  Kendra is one of Toronto’s talented designers that has had longevity in the industry. Francis has been designing clothes since the mid 90’s to critical acclaim and has also had the success of her very own boutique from 2002-2005.  During our interview Francis took me on a journey through her career as designer, her first break, her views on celebrity fashion clothing lines, her inspirations, and being one of the few African Canadian designers in Toronto.

Afrotoronto: When did you realize you had a love for fashion design?

Kendra Francis: “When I was really young my mother used to sew all my clothes, my cousins would sew and my uncle was a tailor. So that were the love of the craft began. Also one of my first design job was to do a relatives bridal party, so I made all the dresses, it was very 1980’s an angora vogue pattern, but fabulous nonetheless.”

Afrotoronto: When did you get your first break in the industry?

Kendra Francis: “My first break was Fashion Cares in 1996; I had a friend that was an fashion illustrator who gave me the heads up about entering Fashion Cares. I had until Monday to enter a gown and I was told on Friday. I only had 50 dollars to buy some fabric but I did it. My dress was actually the first dress out that night and was worn by Sonia Rodriguez a national ballet dancer at the time.”

Afrotoronto: What sets you apart from other designers in the industry?

Kendra Francis: “My designs are first things I like to wear, you can pull one of my designs out from 5 years ago and still rock it. I wouldn’t say I’m a trendy designer, but my clothes are still in fashion. My pieces are classical but sexy.

Afrotoronto:Where do you get your inspirations from your designs?

Kendra Francis: My inspirations come from fashion magazines, music, movies, reading a book and all walks of life. “

Afrotoronto: Have you designed for any celebrities/VIP’s?

Kendra Francis: “Yes some of the celebrities I designed for have been for Sara Taylor, YaYa of ANTM, Tanya Kim of E Talk Daily, and just recently Sarah Polley for the Cannes festival. “

Afrotoronto: Are there any designers your would like to collaborate with?

Kendra Francis: “I would like to collaborate with Zac Posen.”

Afrotoronto: What are your thoughts on celebrities having clothing lines?

Kendra Francis: “I think its ok as long as its honest and you cant really tell if its honest or not but through the clothing. Also if they are not out to make a quick buck then I can appreciate it for what it is. One celebrity clothing line I like is Gwen Stefani’s line, it looks like she put some thought into her clothing line and she seems to be really genuine about her designs.”

Afrotoronto: Do you find that African Canadian designers are getting enough exposure in Toronto?

Kendra Francis: “I only know one other black designer besides my self, there was also 2 black guys back in the day. But for Toronto Fashion Week I was the only Black designer there.  The Toronto fashion industry is a very tight knit industry, it’s a hard industry to get into there is no government funding no government support. Sometimes you just have to leave get big and come back to make it.  As for myself I got a lot of exposure through my boutique where people got to know my name and my line.  I personally will be shopping my line around in L.A and New York and hopefully open some boutiques and take it from there. “

AfroToronto: Whom does your line cater to?

Kendra Francis: “ I cater to women who like fashion and that are strong, empowered, sexy women of all ages.  I have style women from 0-20, and I specialize in custom makes.  For retail right now sizes go from 0-10 and any size after that is custom made.”

For more information on Kendra and her clothing line you cant contact her at:



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