Barbara Kiama founder and Creative Head Designer at Barbara Accessories and her passion for Persons with albinism
How is working in fashion today different from when you started out?
The industry today is very competitive. We have young Kenyan designers with incredible work who cannot be overlooked, which is a good thing. The more we are, the more competitive we become, the faster the Kenyan fashion industry grows. The market has also grow to appreciate Kenyan designers and African fashion over the last ten years which has led to an increase in job creation in the sector.
What do you think is the most beautiful accessory you’ve ever designed?
My most beautiful accessory is my Carol Stone Necklace inspired by one of my first clients called…..Carol. At the time, Carol just landed her first job and wanted a colourful necklace she could wear to work and that’s how we came up with the Carol Stone. It’s a very vibrant neckpiece yet very official made from bending different shades of the same colour.
Which competitor do you have the most respect for?
I have a lot of respect for Vee Fashion House Kenya. Her work is amazing! I would totally wear her anklets with a thigh high slit dress.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Today’s clientele are on social media actively looking at all things fashion related. From the latest fashion trends to where they can purchase them. As an entrepreneur, I actively use social media not only to market my brand but also to keep up with the market trends and identify what my competitors are up to. You cannot ignore social media as an entrepreneur especially now that more people are buying online from all over the world.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
The best thing about starting a business in your early twenties is you have nothing to lose because you have nothing to fear. I started with what I had and the business slowly grew to where it is today. I never compared my business to others nor did I try to do what other were doing, I simply stuck to my own lane and focused on Barbara Accessories. The moment you start comparing yourself to others and imitating them is when you’ll start second guessing yourself and that’s when fear kicks in.
What challenges do you face as fashion designer from East Africa?
My main challenge is trying to make a name for myself in the African fashion industry that is generally dominated by West African and South African fashion. East African designers are not known nor do we have a large number of fashion retailers from East Africa who will support their own.
What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer from Kenya?
My favorite part is getting a picture on whatsApp from a satisfied client who wore a Barbara Accessories product to work or at a function and got enough complements for the day. A satisfied client will always refer someone back to Barbara Accessories and that’s the best part.