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hope kiriisa by joyanne panton

Photo Credit : Joyanne Panton

Name: Hope Kiriisa

IG: @hopekiriisa

Agency/Management: Self Represented

When Hope Kiriisa was up late nights watching the Home Shopping Network, and struggling to “balance it all”,  before waking up and pulling out the perfect pair of jeans to wear to class at University of South Florida she had no idea that she would one day be one of the faces of the brand. The economics major caught the eye of a stylist who sensed something special in her and the rest was fashion history.

The model has lent her brilliants smile to some of the largest celebrity fronted retail brands in the business including Melissa McCarthy, Giuliana Rancic, Wendy Williams, Jessica Simpson and Lala Anthony. She’s also worked with legacy brands like Levis, DKNY and Vince Camuto.

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Photo Credit: Rafael Clemente

In an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful she talked about how she thinks celebrities are impacting fashion, being committed to creating change, and how far she thinks the fashion industry still has to go.

Kiriisa, who served as one of the in store models for the launch of Lala’s capsule collection with Ashley Stewart, sees the value in celebrities creating clothing for all body types. “I think they up it a level I think they give it a little sense of high fashion before it wasn’t ‘glamourized’. They give a high fashion touch,” she said.

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She sported the collection’s coveted hoodie dress at the launch interacting with consumers and giving them a chance to feel like they were welcomed into the fashion fold. “It’s not just like okay let’s give them something to wear. It’s let’s give them something that has style and something that’s on trend and something that you would actually want to wear,” she continued.

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Photo Credit : Joyanne Panton

Prior to modeling she says “I wouldn’t coin myself like a fashion person. I was actually a tomboy. But my style was actually streetwear chic like I love a good pair of jeans and a nice shirt.”

Her reluctance to worship at the altar of fashion might have had something to do with being the child of strict Ugandan parents. They were not easily impressed by the industry seeking their daughter out. “At first it was a lot of resistance, they were like ‘what are you doing?’ you need to hurry and finish college so you can go get a good job.”

But once she provided that she could make a living indulging in fashion her family came around.

“As I continued to grow they kind of like warmed up to it. They started to see me in magazines and once they turned on the tv and they were like okay my daughter’s a model for real. Now they’re very supportive of me just going out there and living my dream.”

Their reluctance may have been a blessing in disguise because Kiriisa’s love of denim stemming from her tombody ways eventually inspired her to become a businesswoman The upcoming boutique she is working on.

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Photo Credit: Joyanne Panton

Even with major retailers making strides towards inclusion there were still gaps she was unable to fill in her closet because her body wasn’t being represented so eventually she set out to fill them herself. During her interview she was parked in the garment district headed to source fabric and discuss fit for style options she will soon be selling. She notes that, “Even though the fashion industry is growing it’s growing a little too slow for me.”

When she isn’t walking the runway or working on her business she dedicates her time to mission projects on the continent including her parents home country of Uganda and domestic projects like The Hope Print a mentoring program she founded to promote the power in embracing the “Everyday Fabulousness” of one’s life.

She says “The Hope Print is kind of like the blueprint to being everyday fabulous.”

“You don’t have to be a celebrity you don’t have make a whole bunch of money you can literally live your best life just being everyday fabulous doing what it is that you do. Whether you play an instrument or you’re going to school on an academic scholarship you can live your life being everyday fabulous.”  

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