Kianga “Kiki Kitty” Peterson—the designer who created collections for brands ranging from the House of Dereon and the Nicki Minaj Collection to Jay Z’s Rocawear and P. Diddy’s Sean Jean—has introduced her collection: K.Milele. K.Milele, which debuted in 2012, is devoted to dresses and jumpers that, according to the designer, resemble the colors and styles of Diane von Furstenberg or Tracy Reese. “I feel like I’m hip-hop and I’m urban, and there are so many levels of what urban is,” she says. “A rapper can look like Pharrell or he can look like Slim Thug. There’s not just one look or just one visual, so there will always be an edge to my clothing because I’m from the hip-hop culture.”
Peterson started her career at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she was introduced to J. Alexander Martin. He was launching FUBU with Carlton Brown, Daymond John, and Keith Perrin—a.k.a., the beginning of urbanwear, which coincided with the rise of hip-hop. “Everything was just bananas, and we were there for that because fashion and music are one and the same,” she remembers. “A lot of brands like FUBU were starting to get hot, and it was riding right alongside when rap was just becoming ginormous. Biggie Smalls was in the office, getting clothes. All these people made such tremendous contributions to fashion were there, and we were at the music videos giving clothes. There was just this energy.”
FUBU was a success with men, but Peterson recognized a demand in the market and she wanted to design for women. Why shouldn’t they be included in the movement? They were on the scene—and they were contributing to the zeitgeist. “I was also styling at Uptown Records, so i’m on these video sets and I was an assistant to Sybil Pennix, who would get all these high-end labels but the way she would flip it for a hip-hop video was just kind of dope,” she explains. “I got this idea in my head about what women’s urbanwear could be and how we were rocking everything.”
Peterson continued with FUBU, evolving their collection for women (which, of course, was a hit), before transitioning to brands like Jay Z’s Rocawear. Since the 1990s, she has become the go-to within the world of urbanwear, consulting with a variety of celebrities on their brands: Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake, and Nelly (among others). She, currently, is collaborating with Nicki Minaj for her collection at Kmart. “It was a good match when I came on because she’s really a perfectionist and I’m a perfectionist,” she shares. “Plus she mentioned that, when she was younger, she used to wear FUBU.” (Peterson intimated that we should expect another collection, a high-end collection, from Nicki Minaj. So, stay tuned.)
A woman of many talents—including juggling a host of careers—Peterson is, ultimately, committed to K.Milele. And the buzz around the collection, which presented at New York Fashion Week, continues to increase. For example, the Cove Atlantis has been stocking her designs, since the flowiness of her fabrics is perfect for resort. “I started with going back to my roots with the threads of cocktails dresses and things like that and gowns,” she explains, adding that she sewed prom dresses and red-carpet gowns for her Barbie as a child. “It’s contemporary. It’s turned more into a vacation type of beach attire. If I could wear a dress every day of my life, I would just wear a dress.” And that’s what she’s gifting to her customers through K.Milele: a dress for every day of their lives.