An experience that means something different to everyone, motherhood is a weighty role that most love nothing more than to celebrate come May 9—especially this year given that so many of us have been socially distancing from family. And though moms, and motherly figures, deserve the world every day quite frankly, we’re honoring the occasion by handing the mic to the mother-daughter duos behind two prominent African fashion brands: Jude Benhalim and her mother Rana Al-Azm of Egypt’s Jude Benhalim, and Ann McCreath and her daughter Iona McCreath of Kenya’s KikoRomeo.
For this Industrie Africa exclusive, the four creative business women allowed us to be a fly on the wall and listen in as they discussed everything from their professional relationship and the lessons they’ve learned along the way, to their personal perspectives on what it means to be a mother. Read on for a conversation between the respective pairs and an exclusive glimpse at their unique dynamics—and don’t forget to call your mother.
Ann and Iona McCreath, KikoRomeo
Kenya’s KikoRomeo is proof that sometimes polarity in personalities can result in brilliantly cohesive ideas. Founded by Ann McCreath and now featuring her daughter Iona McCreath as Creative Director, the twenty-five-year-old fashion brand’s mother-daughter duo exhibit a unique ease with one another that’s more like that of a good friendship, resulting in a balance of spontaneity and a contained focus that just works. Uninhibited by the burden of wondering whether they can trust one another, their professional bond is bolstered by a firm confidence in the other’s instincts.
Ann & Iono McCreath. Photo: Courtesy of KikoRomeo
“The trust we have as mother and daughter is important. We’re invested in both of us winning.”
Ann McCreath and Iona McCreath. Photo: Courtesy of KikoRomeo
On working together
Ann: You and I have very different characters so we can clash. But we can also be very much in agreement. I like to sit down, focus on something, and have a talk about it whereas you have a more—how do I say—a more go-with-the-flow attitude.
Iona: Yeah, it can get frustrating for me because all you want to do is talk about work. And that’s why I have stepped into the business now because I’ve always been so involved in it anyway from as long as I can remember. Working together does get quite challenging sometimes, but there are a lot of positives to it.
Ann: I think it’s also because our whole house was creative. My friends were all creative whether it was music, theatre, poetry, dance, that’s the environment that you grew up in. I encouraged you to draw. You started designing very young and we even made some of your designs when you were around seven or eight. Obviously, as a mother, you encourage your child whatever. You were always interested in artistic stuff so for me, that was easy to encourage.
On a Creative Upbringing
Iona: My memories of growing up and creativity, like you said: it was always around me. My earliest memories are of fashion shows: backstage at fashion shows, watching fashion shows. I was also always drawing, and of course, playing with dolls and thinking about what they were wearing.
Ann: I also took you everywhere from a young age. If I was going to an art exhibition, if I was going to a dinner, I took you with me. Because I was a single mum, I took you [everywhere]. So you were immersed in the arts before you could speak even.
On Trust and Lessons Learned
Iona: It’s hard to trust people in business, so though a family working relationship can be challenging, the trust we have as mother and daughter is important. We’re invested in both of us winning.
Ann: And knowing that you have my back 100% and you probably feel like I’ve got your back, right?
Ann: And that’s a kind of unconditional, having each other’s back.
Iona: Which makes it a lot easier for things to operate and to negate any other challenges there may be.
Ann: You’ve taught me to listen.
Ann: Like you say, I’m always patient when I teach, but on the day-to-day, I’m too busy talking. So that’s something that I am much more conscious of now. If I catch myself talking too much and not listening, there’s a voice in the back of my head and it’s you saying, “Mummy, listen to what they’re saying”.
Iona: That’s good, I’m glad to hear that. [laughs].There’ve been so many great lessons you’ve taught me. I think most everything in my life I’ve learned from you.
Jude Benhalim and Rana Al-Azm, Jude Benhalim
Helmed by Cairo-based jewelry designer Jude Benhalim and her mother, Rana Al-Azm, the Jude Benhalim brand is steered by the pair’s admiration for each other and a palpably loving bond. Together, they’re the perfect combination of strategic business skill and unbridled creativity, their complementary talents coming together to power a brand whose very foundation is built upon its founders' unique relationship. Both mother and daughter are vocal about the benefits of working together, highlighting their dual perspectives and ability to lean on one another as definitive advantages of their family business.
Jude Benhalim & Rana Alazm. Photo: Courtesy of Jude Benhalim
“It's a feeling of pride to be able to teach and learn from your daughter. You taught me so much about vision, about persistence”
Jude Benhalim & Rana Alazm. Photo: Courtesy of Jude Benhalim
on working together
Jude: I think it’s great to work with you because you’re always a shoulder I can confidently lean on. It’s a great equation because you’re really good at the business side, like managing and handling the operations, while I handle the creative side. So in a way, we complete each other.
Rana: For me, I've been able to see you grow as a person in the business, to watch you grow more confident. But, you know, it’s okay to lean on mom a little bit. Sometimes it gets confusing wearing the hat of a mother and of a business partner. Sometimes I feel I need to get out of the way and there’s always emotion involved. It’s been a journey and I feel like we get stronger because there is always confidence. We’re very lucky.
on lessons learned
Jude: The most [important] thing I’ve learned from you is that everything will happen when it’s meant to. You taught me that this is where I’m meant to be right now [and that] you’re at the place that's right for you and I always remind myself of that.
Rana: It's a feeling of pride to be able to teach and learn from your daughter. You taught me so much about vision, about persistence. I’ve also learned to let you see the picture the way you want to see it or to see your perspective because you’re the spirit of the brand. So I let go of resistance. You’re the new generation and I’m also learning from you.
Jude: You’re so cute. I feel like we do have a special bond just because we built this thing together. It's our baby.
Rana: I agree, and for you starting so young, I think it was this bond that we created in this business. It feels different when you have a daughter who is a partner at the same time. It’s also negative in the sense that when we get the chance to have some quality time together we keep talking about work [laughs].
Jude: But we’ve gotten a lot better at that. It used to be worse. But for me, the best part of working together is that I get to see you almost every day.
Rana: [Laughs] Oh sweetheart. Me too. Alhamdulillah. Thank God, I’m glad. We just wish for more success.
On Being A Mother
Rana: Being a mother means unconditional love, unconditional giving. It’s everything in the world to me.
Jude: I feel lucky to have been chosen to be your daughter. Everything I learned, I learned from you. I am where I am because of you. I feel so lucky getting to work with you and have you as my business partner. I really did get very lucky to have you as a mother.
Rana: That’s amazing, thank you. I love you.
Jude: I love you, mom.
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