Kenya Fashion: Nairobi is Becoming a Popular Destination Thanks to Kenyan Fashion Designers.
Ismail Einashe visits two designers who give various interpretations of contemporary Kenyan fashion in a BBC series of letters from African journalists.
Two tailors are using sewing machines to join, hem, and create gorgeous, patterned bags on a cloudy afternoon in the capital of Kenya. Totes created from old jeans are hung on the walls of the workshop.
Suave Studios, which is bustling with tailoring activity in downtown Nairobi, is housed on the second story of a lovely white and blue-painted structure.
Suave Studios, a company founded in 2013 by Mohamed Awale, has become recognized as one of the most interesting names in the city’s burgeoning fashion industry.
It uses leftover textiles to create wallets, passport holders, messenger bags, and other accessories like backpacks and backpacks.
Awale is inspired by Nairobi’s enormous, spreading Gikomba, the biggest market of its kind in East Africa, which is accessible to the public.
He claims that the more bags we sell, the more garbage we eliminate.
For Nairobi’s trendy students and young professionals, the tailors transform used clothing like discarded jeans, leather jackets, and suits purchased from the US and Europe into reasonably priced products.
According to the designer, his company started out on the current property in only one room and has since grown.
Awale even attracts business from industry behemoths like Google and markets his goods abroad.
He received financing from the Ethical Fashion Initiative earlier this year to enroll in a two-month fashion program in Florence, Italy, with a focus on bags and accessories.
He gained knowledge about bag design, fashion history, and business expansion.
Awale’s vision has been elevated by this experience, and he has decided to relaunch his label as Rummage Studios in September with a new brand identity that is centered on international growth.
The ready-to-wear, high-end fashion label of designer and creative consultant Kepha Maina is at the other end of the fashion spectrum in Nairobi.
In 2013, he started his own label, which he now runs out of his home/workshop in the heart of Nairobi.
The human form, architecture, and self-expression all serve as sources of inspiration for Maina.
A significant factor was the mid-’00s trend for thin jeans, which was popularized by British and American Indie bands like The Libertines and The Strokes.
Since Kenya didn’t have this popular style, he adopted a do-it-yourself strategy and altered and made the jeans from used clothing.
His simple designs are influenced by pioneering Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Comme des Garçons as well as enduring names like Azzedine Alaia and Jill Sander.
The innovative British designer Alexander McQueen, who Maina claims “elevated” clothes “into art,” was a major inspiration for him.
Maina was profoundly influenced by the late McQueen’s artistically dark dress sense and high-concept performances that captivated audiences.
Maina claims that “McQueen opened my eyes that you can use fashion to make a message.”
Additionally, he finds inspiration in East African visual artists like Ibrahim el-Salahi, a well-known Sudanese painter and influential modernist.
Nairobi does not follow seasons because the fashion sector is too small, unlike the fashion Meccas of Paris and Milan.
Four collections have been displayed by Maina to date, and the fifth will debut in September.
He claims that Nairobi’s aesthetic is sleek, angular, and modernist, setting it apart from other African fashion hubs like Lagos.
The challenge for designers is that the majority of wealthy Kenyans are much more inclined to buy a Hermès purse or a Gucci jacket than they are to buy high-end clothing from a Kenyan designer.
Despite these obstacles, Maina claims that there has been a visible rise in the number of designers, stylists, and creatives working in Nairobi during the past several years.
Many of them are attracting attention from around the world, such designer and creative director Sunny Dolat, who has shown at Somerset House in London and assisted in shaping the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition on African fashion.
It appears that there is a talented generation at the helm, and Nairobi’s vibrant fashion sector is just getting started, whether you are searching for a recycled fashion item from the likes of Awale or the more high-fashion creations of Maina.