Lexington fashion designer in the spotlight with a runway show to launch her tailored women’s clothing line and support local refugee organizations
By Liz Bingham
Photos for @tsglexington
Watch out in Kentucky, there is a new designer of women’s clothing in town! Clothing designer Albert Lukonga takes the fashion scene to the next level with his very first show presented by Lexington Scout Guide and hosted by Kentucky Castle. The show will be in Lexington on June 4 to celebrate the launch of its new line. “My motto has always been to bring LA to Lexington for the first time, and not only to make it known for horses and bourbon, but also for fashion,” said Lukonga. the Albert Couture Fashion Show will also support the missions of the Rafiki Center and BTB Organization; two organizations that strive to educate, inspire and support the refugee youth community. We had the chance to speak with Lukonga and the editor and owner of The Scout Guide Lexington, Jennifer Mueller, to learn more about this exciting event and to get to know Lukonga and her background as a designer.
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the country’s political crisis, founder and designer Albert Lukonga was raised by his mother, a tailor and designer, who worked hard in the fashion industry to put food on the table for ten. Eventually, maintaining this on her own became impossible to achieve. The family decided to leave the country for safety reasons in Zimbabwe where they lived for 6-7 years in the refugee camp. In 2006, his family was relocated to the United States. This relocation brought Lukonga to none other than Lexington, Ky., Where he attended high school, played soccer and became the best dressed kid in school.
During this time, Lukonga also met his soccer moms, Ms Jones and Ms Paula, who helped make him the man he is today. As a child, Lukonga always dreamed of having her own label one day and used all her resources to find her way into that dream. In 2011, Albert lost Ms Jones to breast cancer and her life was turned upside down again. At this point, he chose to channel his energy into the retail world while attending college. “My whole life was around fashion before I came to the United States. When I came to the United States, I fell in love with Kentucky, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went to the University of Kentucky to be a cardiologist and I didn’t like the lifestyle after observing someone in the field. I needed to find some light in my life after my second mother passed away, ”said Lukonga.
Keeping his dream in mind, Lukonga traveled to Europe to meet the best in the industry who could help him make his dream come true. After working with several manufacturers there, he was able to launch a men’s line about a year ago. “They believed in my story, they believed in my dream,” Lukonga said. When working with his clients in the United States, they suggested that because of his skills he should create a line for women as well. “I started during COVID last year, then opened in June, by appointment only and by order,” Lukonga said. “It became a thing because it was the perfect model for COVID. This is how Albert Couture was born.
The Albert Couture show at Kentucky Castle on June 4 will showcase his new women’s line of bespoke clothing. When asked how Lukonga would describe his line, he replied: “Timeless and classic. I want the women who wear my clothes to say, “I can wear this, I want to be this Monday”. My style is accessible and I want to understand Lexingtonians and Kentucky. Mueller described them as “tight but fluid. These are pieces that you can put together and still feel dressed up, yet comfortable with cutting-edge sophistication. Lukonga continued, “I want to show what I can create for women in Kentucky. This fashion show will, hopefully, show it. I’m not changing the Kentucky woman, I just take who she is as a person and do a more natural type of look and shine a light on the classic look.
The support that the show will give to the Rafiki Center and the BTB organization is also very important to Lukonga. Mueller said: “It is important for Albert to give back to the refugee community. It sets a great example for them – as an entrepreneur – to stay focused and use their resources to give back to their own communities. Lukonga continued, “This is something I wish I had at a young age. There is another one Albert out there who might have the opportunity that I got and I want to help facilitate that. But at the same time, I want the young children that the Rafiki Center and the BTB organization work with to remember their roots and where they come from.
the Rafiki Center arose out of the need to provide Lexington residents with opportunities to learn more about the diversity of the African community, as well as the African community to learn more about American culture. The Rafiki Center also exists to maintain African culture, helping children not to forget their Swahili language, cultural traditions and values. The BTB organization was founded by brothers Philip and John Manga as ‘retired’ football players who dedicate and share their skills with determined and hopeful young athletes through skills camps, a educational assistance and workshops.
“These are my brothers. The Rafiki Center and the BTB organization provide opportunities for young men that go beyond basic mentoring,” said Lukonga. “Both organizations offer sports skills camps, workshops. schools, food, transportation and a safe environment to thrive, find your place in this community and at the same time remember and celebrate their African roots and heritage. ”
In addition to providing support to these organizations, event attendees can also look forward to a dazzling spectacle of art and beauty. “The show will be very exciting,” Mueller said. “There are two ticket options. There are VIP ballroom tickets with unlimited champagne service and hors d’oeuvres and the general admission ticket where champagne service and hors d’oeuvres are limited. There will also be gift bags for the first 100 tickets sold, a DJ, live music and more, but all eyes will be on the models and Albert. Kentucky Castle, recently named by Architectural Digest as “Kentucky’s Finest Hotel”, will provide the perfect setting for this exquisite event. “Jennifer suggested Kentucky Castle because the owners and their focused community initiatives continue to provide young people with possibilities and dreams. I wanted to be able to create and inspire people to dream big and aspire to something big. I want people to feel like royalty. What better way to do this than in a real castle? Lukonga explained. Mueller continued, “It will be a night of enchantment, beautiful people and beautiful clothes, and a celebration of femininity and landscapes.”
The Albert Couture Fashion Show will take place on Friday June 4 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Kentucky Palace located at 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, Kentucky. Presale tickets are on sale now at https://bit.ly/2SfG6pu.