We are Mixed Grill, an ethical kids fashion brand with production in The Gambia and base in Stockholm, Sweden. We believe that fashion can be a force for good. All of our products are hand tailored and we have a close working relationship with everyone we work with. We aim for everything to be fair-trade and transparent. We also believe that Africa is the future. We want to share West African culture as we see it through fashion.
Mixed Grill - Shaping world changers.
Telling our story calls for me to bring you back to 1997 when I was fifteen and totally tired of school. My BFF Linda was going to do an exchange year in the US, and if she was going then I was most definitely going too. I explained this to my mom, who just looked at me and told me that we couldn’t afford it. It might have been because of a rebellious streak, or maybe it was simply faith, but my immediate response then was ‘Then I’ll move to dad in The Gambia instead’. I never thought mom would agree to it, but she did.
Half of my family lives in The Gambia and when I left my mom’s apartment in Gävle, Sweden it meant moving in together with my brothers, cousins and aunties in our family home in Kachikalli, in the city of Bakau. The contrast was immense, which suited me perfectly. In Bakau the houses are crowded closely together and the streets are either too narrow or poorly made for cars. Out on the streets people are having lively discussions, doing business left, right and center, and you hear carpenters, metal welders, and hundreds of sowing machines which create a crescendo that pumps up the pulse of the city to the max. Kachikalli is the world’s smallest metropol and this was where I was going to continue my school years. It was a time in my life that changed everything. Not only did I get to know my family there, but I also really got to know myself.
It was there in Katchikalli, 18 years ago, that my cousins and I started brainstorming about what kind of business we would build together. There was no shortage of ideas. My cousin Kinneh thought we should buy these small clutch bags which were the fad at the time in Sweden, and resell in The Gambia. Yuma and Sunna wanted to make kids clothing and sell in Sweden. Ous-Boy, wanted us to invest in a car which he would turn into a taxi. Unfortunately I didn't inherit my dad’s full-on business savvy mind, so nothing came out of these ideas back then. My entrepreneurial spirit had yet not come into full bloom. But then my life took another turn…
In spring 2014 when the Swedish election was closing in, I experienced that Swedish society was becoming more and more openly xenophobic. The Swedish Democrats were gaining traction and at the same time my oldest daughter Billie started asking me questions about the color of her skin. I remember her saying that she wished she were white. For the sake of our children and their future, we decided to move to The Gambia. We wanted for them to see and experience that it is normal and totally OK to be black.
So, my children went on a similar journey as I once did. They got to know Yuma, Sunna, Ous-Boy and all the others. They got to eat Ebbeh after school, coming home sweating in their 100% polyester school uniforms. They got to explore the streets of Kachikalli, play with my cousins’ kids and learn Gambian slang and that you by no means should talk like that in front of auntie Badjen Ramou. Badjen Ramou, the most fashionable woman I know; a true matriarch with an abundance of wonderful creations that somehow magically fit into her tiny wardrobe. They would also get to know that my cousins are still full of ideas for what kind of ‘small business’ we would open.
Our journey lead to a renewal of the dream I had kept with me for over 18 years, and we decided to start working on the concept which became Mixed Grill. I am thrilled that we have finally started our ‘small business’. It is such a big step for my cousins and I, and I am excited to welcome you to experience this with us. Here we go!
/ Joanna Lemnelius, founder and owner, Mixed Grill