Stacey Bafi-Yeboa on finding her Light
By Victoria Christie, Journalism, Carleton University
She is the owner and designer of KANIA, a luxury sweater brand which blends fashion with fitness.
In her first career as a dancer on a Broadway, she took to designing clothing that would be stylish but also suitable for dancing. Pieces you can wear from the studio to the streets.
You cannot help but be filled with a sense of warmth and comfort as her singsong voice and electric smile greets every customer at the door of the flagship store on York Street.
The shop is lined with her cozy creations, each with a tag saying, “never be afraid to follow your passion, live your dreams, find your light.”
The word KANIA means light in Twi, the language of the Ashanti Tribe in Ghana, where Bafi-Yeboa's husband Nana is from.
“I am a light and I want to be the light, but I also want you to find your light inside of you,” the 38-year-old designer said.
Bafi-Yeboa met her husband at a track and field meet when they were both in high school when she was Stacey Martin. A few months later, he sent her a Valentine's Day card through their mutual friends and they have been together ever since.
"It is hard to put into words, but in loving her, I am always equally committed to becoming a better father and a better husband," Mr. Bafi-Yeboa said.
Balancing her booming business and their three-year-old son, Mikai, life can be pretty hectic. But as she sits on the sofa recounting her past, she exudes this effortless radiance and calm.
Bafi-Yeboa describes herself as a “fly by the seat of my pants” personality, but her hard work, commitment and dedication to her craft is what catapulted her onto the international stage as a dancer and a fashion entrepreneur.
From a young age, the Ottawa-native remembers loving every aspect of dance, from the stage to the makeup to the movement of her body.
“My skills were good, but it was more of my charisma,” she said. “I connected with the audience more than just being the best technical dancer.”
After graduating from St. Pius X High School, she turned her passion into a profession. She worked as a dancer for Canada’s Wonderland and the Royal Caribbean cruise line.
Then, New York came knocking.
Her big break came with a role in Broadway’s Saturday Night Fever. At 19, she packed up her life and moved to the Big Apple.
“That city has an energy that you can’t explain. It is so beautiful and charismatic and everything that I dreamed of as a little girl,” Bafi-Yeboa said.
During her three years in the city, she began designing her own clothing for auditions. She wanted to be comfortable, yet stylish in and outside of the dance studio.
And so, KANIA was born.
“I wanted to be in dance clothes, but I wanted to look good,” she said. “There was a niche that needed to be met because there was a gap in the market.”
There are few black female fashion designers in the male-dominated fashion industry, but Bafi-Yeboa does not see her race or gender as obstacles. They are opportunities.
“It is harder being a woman of colour and it is harder being a woman, period,” she said. “But I’m representing myself the best way I can. People will choose me in the end because they want that girl, not the black girl.”
Bafi-Yeboa has debuted her collections at Ottawa Fashion Week and worked in collaboration with RBC Bluesfest for a custom fashion line. In March 2015, KANIA hit the runway at World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto.
“I want to be able to know that I was not put in this world just to make clothes. I want to inspire you to be the best person you can be,” Bafi-Yeboa said, when asked what values she lives by.
She takes inspiration from every aspect of her life and says no single thing or person influences her creativity.
“I can be driving and I can be seeing the sunset and hear the music that goes through my ears, and then all of a sudden I see this whole runway show that is not a person, it’s not a thing, but I felt something in that moment.”
Being a full-time businesswoman and a new mother is not always easy for Bafi-Yeboa.
She says the hardest obstacle she faces in life is balance.
“As a woman in business, it is difficult because you are always in this area where you’re still the mom and you’re still the wife,” she said. “It’s a balance, and it’s possible but it’s definitely difficult.”
When asked what the future holds, she says she envisions one with no limitations.
“I don’t want there to ever be a roof on my ceiling,” she said. “I want my sky to be open.”
After all, what better way to let the light in.