welcome to Unbuttoned, a conversation with adult creatives about how they did it, their process, and any advice they would give to those who dream of creating something of their own.
If you ask Recho Omondi where she comes from, she will answer: “Nowhere”. And she will tell the truth – the Kenyan-American was born in Nowhere, Oklahoma, a small town about an hour from the state capital. Omondi, designer and creator and host of podcast The cutting room floor, grew up bouncing around various Midwestern cities before landing in New York City, the place she now calls home.
While in the small towns, Omondi danced and played the piano, joined the drama club at each new school, and looked at every fashion magazine she could get her hands on. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design, she moved to New York and worked as a pattern maker for various brands including Calvin Klein and Theory. In 2013, she launched her eponymous label OMONDI, a love letter to her Kenyan heritage, and has seen her work in renowned publications like Magazine W and on the silver screen through The Issa Rae Show Unsafe. While running her brand, Omondi saw a dearth of fashion critics; the industry was recycling the same creators, the same advertisements, the same brands. The moments between dates, happy hours and nightlife were filled with fashion talks with colleagues and friends. In 2018, she decided to formalize these conversations and launch her industry podcast, The cutting room floor.
The bimonthly show featured interviews with newcomers and industry mainstays: Michelle Obama frontrunner Christopher John Rogers, Gap and Old Navy executive Mickey Drexler, and fashion internet patrol Diet Prada. , to name a few. Omondi has been championed as an interviewer for her frankness, her desire to get to the root of issues and her willingness to push her guests, discovering beyond places where other media might cut the tape. As an interviewer with a background in engineering design, she can ask questions that some journalists may not even know how to ask. She created, in her own words, “the only fashion show in fashion”.
Vogue teens sat down with Omondi to discuss her relationship with the internet, what her fashion utopia looks like and her biggest podcast lessons so far.
Teen Vogue: I am curious about your education. You moved a lot from place to place when you were a child. Was there something that gave you stability during all of these movements?
Recho Omondi: My family is Kenyan and I grew up in the Midwest. We moved around a lot, high school was the only time in my life that I went to the same school for four years. We traveled a lot, since my parents are Kenyans, we went to Kenya a lot, and we were in Europe a lot because my father’s siblings were in Europe. Different places from Belgium to Stockholm via Bangkok. There was a lot of traveling – maybe that was the main difference between me and my peers. International travel was not very big with people I knew.
You asked what provided stability if there was a line through, and it sounds funny, but I was the constant. I said this in a previous interview, that you are the constant, and everyone is the variable. I learned that quite young. [Moving] teaches you a lot – you are much more agile, you learn to navigate different types of personalities and different types of people. I learned not to take anything too personally. And I also learned that people only know what they know. People work in the stratosphere of what they have been through and what they know. I think when you jump into a lot of different pockets, different towns, different towns, you feel like an observer of different things. While I think people who have never really left their hometown, or who only know the world they know, it’s different. I think they feel their life is real life and there is no other life. While if you’ve seen a lot of it and you’re eight years old go to that school from that kindergarten class to that first grade class to a new city to a new state to a new state to another state to Paris to Stockholm in Kenya in Nairobi in the village where there is no internet in Oklahoma – when you see it all at nine, ten, eleven years old, I feel blessed that way. As, Okay, there’s more than me. I think it makes you more open to other ways of being.
TV: After studying at SCAD, you moved to New York and started working in design. Being a non-white person in fashion can be a huge challenge. What have you encountered in the different brands for which you have worked?
RO: It was a very different time, even if it wasn’t that long ago. There was no room for all the conversations we have today around people of color, around body positivity. None of those liberal ideas were there. Everyone knows that, and that’s what is so fascinating, that everyone acts like they don’t know it. But we all knew the industry, especially in luxury, was all about pedigree. And it’s always been like that. It is for the aristocracy, the bourgeois women, the rich, the women of the world as they were called. It was a very linear, pretentious and discriminatory pipeline to access any prestigious position in fashion. We all know that. Seeing it rotate is very interesting. The same people who supported these standards are now backing down and almost trying to absolve themselves as if they had never been part of it. This is what is fascinating to observe because, for people like me, I have been here for over ten years. I watched most of these people, even though they never saw me. It’s a lot Benefits of being a wallflower atmosphere. Did I feel safe in these spaces? Guess I can say I never felt unsafe, but felt invisible.