From GBC fashion school to Nordstrom: Emefa Kuadey's brand ISRAELLA KOBLA featured at stores across the U.S. during Black History Month

In honour of Black History Month, U.S. fashion retailer Nordstrom is spotlighting Black-owned or founded brands, including George Brown College (GBC) graduate Emefa Kuadey's acclaimed women's clothing brand, ISRAELLA KOBLA.

Kuadey's pieces are on sale at flagship stores and locations in eight major American cities, including New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and more. 

Six years ago, Kuadey took a leap and left the field of civil engineering to study fashion at GBC. Today, she's celebrating her clothing brand's first American retail partner. 

"[A U.S. retail partner] has always been something on my list of where I want to be — it is one of the big goals for getting the brand out there," Kuadey said. "So, to see it happening now is really crazy." 

Learn more about ISRAELLA KOBLA pieces available at Nordstrom. 

Kuadey's work attracted Nordstrom's attention during New York Fashion Week in September 2023 when she featured her work in a showroom hosted by The Folklore, a B2B marketplace for diverse brands.  

Nordstrom placed its order in October. Thanks to smart planning and careful preparation, Kuadey accomplished a quick turnaround for a made-to-order business, shipping her products out at the end of January. Just before she landed the Nordstrom deal, she had hired a full-time sewer after working with a network of freelance sewers and services across Toronto. 

GBC alumna and founder of ISRAELLA KOBLA, Emefa Kuadey

Commitment to quality and in-house production 

Kuadey is committed to continuing in-house production to ensure the highest standards of clothing construction as her company grows. 

"I'm so big on quality and knowledgeable about the processes because I went to George Brown. I know what needs to be done, and I'm able to assess what has been produced," she said, noting she plans to hire at least one more sewer this year. 

In 2023, she moved her business from a small North York studio to a downtown location in Kensington Market with a showroom and workspace, which provided the much-needed flexibility to fulfill her first order for a major U.S. retailer.  

Staying on top of the latest technologies is a priority for Kuadey "to ensure that our processes can be scaled easily." She recently pivoted to digital pattern cutting. 

The road to entrepreneurial success 

The relentless pursuit of success is exciting and exhausting, especially in the highly competitive fashion world. But Kuadey says, "The more you see results, the more you're motivated to keep going." 

Kuadey's star in the fashion world began to rise as soon as she graduated from the Fashion Techniques and Design program in 2019 when she launched ISRAELLA KOBLA at Vancouver Fashion Week. She overcame the barriers created by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting her business to a made-to-order operation. With high-quality and sustainable products, strategic planning and calculated risk, she's achieved steep and sustainable growth, including the following highlights: 

"I think a lot of my journey has been doing things slightly before I'm ready, but then when it's done, I'm glad I took that risk and took the leap at that time," she said. 

The 'curious entrepreneur' 

Kuadey has hired sewing support for the back of the house and social media support for the front of the house. As her brand attracts more attention, she's investing in social media efforts to provide an inside look at ISRAELLA KOBLA, highlight the people who help produce pieces, and document the production process.  

Follow Kuadey’s story @israellakobla on Instagram.  

“I'm a curious entrepreneur, and I love watching people's journey," she said. "You can reach a deeper level with your customers when they know you beyond images you post or the one or two times that they see your face pop up on Instagram." 

George Brown College Black Futures Month celebrations continue throughout February. Organized by Black Futures Initiatives with support from the Office of Anti-Racism, Equity and Human Rights Services and other college departments, the entire GBC community is invited to this month’s events. Learn more at 

A look from the ISRAELLA KOBLA Undivided Attention collection.

A look from the ISRAELLA KOBLA Undivided Attention collection.

A look from the ISRAELLA KOBLA Undivided Attention collection.