Kenyan-born fashion designer finds inspiration at home

York Against The Grain: Why community is essential for York City-based Gusa By Victoria

The self-starter fashion designer based in York County has piles upon piles of colorful, patterned textiles — for good reason — to sew, cut and tailor the clothing designs of her wildest dreams.

Tina Locurto, York Dispatch

Silk. Sequins. Satin. 

If it’s a type of fabric, bet that Victoria Kageni-Woodard has it. 

The self-starter fashion designer based in York County has piles upon piles of colorful, patterned textiles she uses to create clothing designs of her wildest dreams.

Kageni-Woodard, born in Kenya, always felt a passion for sewing and design. With encouragement from her parents, Kageni-Woodard moved to the United States in 1991 and honed her skills at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“It’s just fascinating to see that my life has continued to be this creative thing that keeps evolving,” Kageni-Woodard said. 

In 2016, Gusa By Victoria was founded. Now, Kageni-Woodard works with clients across the country to create custom-made shirts, dresses and bridal gowns in her studio at 7 E. Market St. in York .

More: York Against The Grain: Full-time mom finds a new passion at Central Market

Additionally, she has pre-made pieces available to shop at her online collection at victoriakageni.com.

Though it heavily depends on what she’s currently working on, Kageni-Woodard said she can finish an article of clothing like a shirt in just a few hours. A wedding dress, on the other hand, might take several months. 

Primarily, her muses and inspiration are the women who live in her community — especially women in the workforce.

“Now that I call York home, this is where I find the inspiration amongst the people that I live with,” Kageni-Woodard said.

Her influence goes beyond fashion — and she wants everyone to know that her story and talents don’t stop at the sewing machine.

Kageni-Woodard has hosted two Gusa Dining Excursions in Central Market York, in which she had the opportunity to cook traditional Kenyan dishes for the community. 

The Gusa World Music Festival, meanwhile, has been bringing together the community through a variety of instruments and songs for four years now.

“I always seem to be wanting to surround myself with good things and creativity has brought me this far,” Kageni-Woodard said. 

That sentiment could not be more truer for Kageni-Woodard — in the form of a new idea that has bloomed into her most recent project. 

A subscription box, called the “history box” will focus on women’s empowerment by introducing customers to various influential women from different parts of the world.

The box will hold an ensemble of five pieces of clothing which are intended to be worn throughout the work week — made out of African print embellishments that helps illustrate the story of a specific community leader.

The box will also contain literature and educational tools, in addition to jewelry pieces to match each clothing item.

“This subscription box is meant to inspire and encourage women to celebrate our differences no matter where in the world they come from,”  Kageni-Woodard said. “Always ideas, ideas and more ideas.”

Editors Note: York Against The Grain is a monthly series by The York Dispatch. We aim to highlight small, unique business owners in the county who deserve some recognition for the work they are doing. Care to nominate a business? Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.