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Sunday 14th of August 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

Whole: A Fun, Fresh Plus-size Kenyan Fashion Label Founded By Getrude Njeri

Whole is a fun, fresh plus-size Kenyan Fashion Label that will soon be the go-to destination for plus size women and plus size men in Kenya looking for beautiful fashion pieces.

NFH Contributing Writer Linda Wairegi sat down with the founder Getrude Njeri, to learn more about Whole clothing brand and her journey as a fashion designer.

 

LW: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

GN: My name is Gertrude Njeri I am a multimedia journalist and a media marketer. I have worked as a writer, audiovisual producer and digital media strategist, and storyteller for different brands. I enjoy uncovering and narrating stories that relate to human experiences, their desires, convictions, interests, and challenges.

Fashion is an extension of who I am, and I believe it is also a great tool to tell one’s stories and express oneself fully. That’s why when I saw a gap for full-figured men and women to openly express themselves through fashion, I was inspired to start my clothing brand.

LW: When did you fall in love with fashion?

GN: I think I’ve just always loved fashion since I was young. Dressing up, styling, and seeing how little bits, pieces, and elements can come together to make something really beautiful!

LW: Who inspired you to start your fashion journey?

GN: Myself to be honest. haha. I am such a lover of clothing and style and when I visited stores, and shops that had really beautiful pieces but didn’t have them in my size, it was disheartening. Also knowing that other plus size men and women were going through this inspired me to serve them.

LW: What’s the name of your fashion label? And why?

GN: Whole.

I was looking for a name that had meaning behind it and that would be timeless. So the message behind it also greatly influenced the name.

For so long plus size men and women were made to feel inferior cause they did not fit into beauty standards. Whole seemed like a perfect fit cause it alluded to how wholesome and complete these full-figured beings are both inwards and outwards.

LW: When did you start your Whole?

GN: Whole has been a process, I can’t say it had a definite beginning. But the concept came to me when I was at my aunt’s place. (She is very religious and spiritual)

So as she and my mum were having banter and drinking tea, I was in the other room browsing through my phone, looking at style inspiration as I always do, then it came to me!

So I ran out to where my mum and my aunt were and I pitched the idea to them and they were like “YES! please do it!” And being in that anointed home, it just felt like God told me to do it there and then!

So from that day, it has just been a journey really. We are constantly launching and identifying new ways that work for us and our customers.

LW: Where can potential customers view and purchase your designs?

GN: We have the temporary shopping site now and the catalogue available here:
https://linktr.ee/WholeClothingBrand

So regarding the price points, we have custom-made pieces that are 10-20 % more than the ready-to-go pieces. However, the ready to go pieces range from Ksh 2,000-4,000.

LW: Why did you decide to come up with a plus-size clothing line?

GN: From a personal experience, I lacked trendy and unique clothing in my size and so many of my plus size girlies expressed the same sentiments. And generally, plus-size bodies are so divine and they too, deserve clothing that makes them feel beautiful and whole.

LW: What makes it different from other plus-size fashion labels/houses?

GN: Our Whole Assist feature is a whole new ball game!

We know that plus size men and women have their mass distributed differently; into different sizes shapes such as apple, hourglass, pear, square etc.

This platform is here to ensure that all the pieces you buy from us have the perfect fit! With the specific measurements you share, we tailor-make or adjust the clothing you purchase from us according to your size and shape.

Also Whole is more of a message than a clothing brand. We are here to literally change the perception of these beings as worthy frames of style and appeal through our pieces. Think of Whole as a revolution!

LW: Can you tell us more about your design process?

GN: So we mostly curate our designs and pieces. The idea was that so many trendy clothing that was in the market was unavailable in larger sizes. So we identify these unique pieces and recreate them, to flatter the full-figured body and make them available to plus-size men and women.

LW: Do you have an interest in making plus-size clothing for men?

GN: Yes most definitely! I have a whole design mood board for my plus-size men. And we plan to actualize this in the next collection.

LW: Have you faced any challenges?

GN: There are constant challenges, It has not been easy! Especially in the early stages. Just getting everything in place and getting that grounding was super hard. But we continue to grow and overcome!

LW: What’s your favourite ‘Whole’ Item? Why?

GN: This is so so hard for me to choose lol cause all of them are just amazing and have different elements in them that make them unique and beautiful.

LW: What’s your highlight so far, in your fashion journey?

GN: My highlight would definitely be the fact that Whole has so much potential, each time I am in my Whole workspace working, I see so many avenues for its growth and success.
And that is my constant highlight, to be honest!

LW: What’s your dream collaboration?

GN: There are excellent plus-size models that I’d love to work with! They are:
@Misslionhunter
@Styleissttyle
@jnaydaily

I’d also love to tap into brands that do not have a broad size range and give them that!

LW: Do you have an inspiring quote for aspiring fashion designers?

GN: Please just do it! Dream it, Idealise it, Fall in Love with It and do it! Do it scared, uncertain, and terrified but please do it! Everything else will follow, I promise.

LW: Is anything else, that you feel our readers should know about you or about Whole?

GN: Go purchase your first piece from Whole!
For your sisters, aunts, girlfriends, mum, best friends! There is something for everyone.
https://linktr.ee/WholeClothingBrand

Kenyan Designers and Film Looku Debut at London Fashion Week Virtual Premiere

A film called Looku celebrating the work of 11 emerging Kenyan brands and designers, including Favoloso By Nanu, Genteel, Nisisi Factory, Sevaria, Enda and We Are NBO, premiered virtually on Saturday 20 February.

Brought about by the British Council’s Creative DNA programme and emerging creative consultancy Fashion Scout, Looku was co-directed by Sunny Dolat and Noel Kasyoka, who sought to recreate the creative vibrancy of Nairobi’s street style scene.

“Whenever we see images of Kenya and Nairobi, often, it’s the landscapes and wildlife that are often prioritised, over the incredible and dynamic people who live there,” said Dolat, a stylist, creative director and co-founder of The Nest Collective in the Kenyan capital who leads the creative direction of Creative DNA x Fashion Scout digital publication Wauzine. “Looku and Wauzine are a celebration of Nairobi, Nairobisms and Nairobians in their glory and flair, a love letter from us to us.”

The screening of Looku was accompanied by three panel talks on timely topics like fostering creativity during crisis, reimagining fashion’s capital cities (moderated by Helen Jennings, Wauzine features editor and co-founder of Nataal Media), and the value of more conscious design practices.

Fashion Scout 

Fashion Scout is a leading international consultancy and platform for nurturing, empowering and showcasing the future of fashion. Fashion Scout’s showcase events in London, Paris, Kyiv and other fashion weeks have presented a whole generation of designers to international media, buyers and influencers.

With 20 years of experience in the industry, our consultancy creates and delivers bespoke mentoring and development programmes for designers and organisations around the world  enabling designers to adapt and build sustainable businesses in these challenging times – and providing them with the opportunity to showcase their work to the international market.

Mettā Nairobi

Metta is Nest Groups’ physical and digital entrepreneurs’ network, where they bring together founders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics and investors
to collaborate. Nest Group is committed to creating collaborative environments that help corporates, start-ups, and our investors scale and succeed.

HEVA Fund

HEVA Fund is an East African fund that invests in the transformative social and economic potential of the creative economy sector in the East African region.

Since 2013, HEVA Fund has generated insights, rolled out investments, and innovated financial models specifically for the growth of the creative economy in east Africa.

HEVA Fund have invested in more than 40 creative businesses and directly supported over 8,000 creative practitioners in the fashion, digital content and television, live music and gaming value-chains. From Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Arusha, Lamu to Dar es salaam, the creative sector is where the creation of new products and new cultural experiences is happening.

They want to be at the forefront of helping producers of cultural goods and services to build high-value, profitable businesses where new ideas will come to life, and where the highest potential for great profits, great jobs, and happy people will be found.

Content courtesy of  Fashion Scout, Mettā Nairobi, HEVA Fund & Nairobi fashion hub 

 

Made in Kenya: Exclusive interview with Cynthia Kimathi Founder, Creative Director at The Seamstress and African le’kiondo

Cynthia is a mother and a fashion enthusiast; who doubles up as a self-taught fashion designer, I have loved fashion and style for as far back as I can remember.

I used to accompany my mother to clothes stores every Christmas holiday to choose outfits for my siblings and me, however, I must admit that my Art and Design teacher in State House Girls High School gave me the extra push needed, from whence I learned all the basics myself.
My fashion line is The Seamstress. A seamstress is a woman who sews and one who earns her living from the craft. That is simply who I am.
I officially launched The Seamstress on November 28th, 2020 on the JW Runway Show, but we had been working on the brand and first collection for at least a year beforehand.

Oscar Alochi: Can you describe The Seamstress, the idea and concept as if I knew nothing about it or the market it is in?

Cynthia Kimathi: The Seamstress is purely a ladies-wear fashion line. During our launch, we started with the collection Dusk to Dawn, which is glam wear for evenings and events. But we are not all about evening gowns. We are a one-stop-shop for all women wear; ranging from casual, office, and streetwear, lingerie, mature looks, and older women, among others.

The brand concept is to release quarterly collections (mid-February, end June, end September, and mid-December) that will aim at introducing new designs and aspects into the fashion market. The collections are all pre-planned beforehand, with every design passing through a set of criticisms from The Seamstress team prior to the final vetting.

This is because the creative side of me sometimes needs to be controlled if we want to make functional outfits.

This February, our aim is to release our second collection just before Valentine’s.

OA: What were you doing before The Seamstress, and what motivated you to start the business?

CK: I have been running African le’kiondo, which is a subsidiary brand just like The Seamstress. The brand focuses on making authentic Africanised bags that are environmentally friendly as we source raw materials and labor locally.

Not only that, but it has been a great instrument in empowering women in Meru County by providing them with an avenue to expand their creativity, put food on their table, and have a safe space to talk about their issues.

Just like African le’kiondo, I started The Seamstress out of mere frustration in finding an outfit for myself, a great motivator. During my participation in a national pageant in 2019, Mrs. Universe Kenya as the current 1st Runners Up, it took me weeks to get an evening gown I liked.

This was simply due to all the outfits looking the same, plus they did not look very functional in the sense that I kept wondering where else I would wear the outfit, and how I could style it to look different every time. This predicament gave birth to The Seamstress fashion line.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CIr-KvcB_tV/?utm_source=ig_embed

OA: What techniques do you use? Tell us about the process.

CK: At The Seamstress, we start with a designer’s consultation, This consultation includes detailed discussions with the client ranging from color choices to fabric choices.

The client then receives three (3) designs and chooses from them. The duration from consultation to delivery also depends on design and details. The sewing process differs and the details would seem quite boring for now.

But I also add a lot of accessories to my designs to give them a 3D effect, with such pieces ranging from flowers, beads, etc, which aids in having my outfits turn heads positively.

OA: How did you learn/master this technique and why do you use it?

CK: As previously mentioned, I received basic art and design training from my high school days. In addition to this, my team and I do a lot of research, and I spend the better part of my mornings learning online.

I use this technique as it keeps me on my toes on what is currently trending in the fashion space, what trends could be making their comeback, plus the added benefit of attaining inspiration.

OA: What challenges did you face?

CK: Being a designer, one has to pump in a lot of finances before reaping anything, therefore sometimes you can be financially constrained especially as a start-up and a new name in the fashion industry.

In the Kenyan market, as much as we are now beginning to accept Kenyan designers, we are not yet there. The market still prefers ‘ready-made’ outfits from boutiques for designer outfits. Therefore, oftentimes clientele does not understand the business model especially the need to pay a Designer’s Consultation Fee.

Growth is gradual and sometimes the audience is not as receptive as imagined, but we hope for better days and are positive on the same.

The biggest challenge has however been letting go of clients who wish us to replicate outfits they find online. It is a difficult task at times explaining that we do not replicate, we create.

OA: How did the obstacles make you feel?

CK: Frustrated at times, excited at others. It is bittersweet. The challenges however motivate me, helps me find new ways of approaching things, and elevates my thinking whilst tickling my creativity.

OA: What were your achievements?

CK: The JW Runway Show is the most recent highlight since the launch. In addition, I have dressed beauty pageant judges, taken part at the end of year party for WICCI (Women’s Indian Chamber Of Commerce and Industry – Kenya Business Council) as well as having the honor of dressing an artist for their upcoming music video to be released this February.

It has just been a month and a half and we feel positive about achieving even bigger this quarter.

OA: Favourite moments?

CK: The launch at the JW has to be the highlight so far. The runway took me back to my old modeling days and I was overwhelmed by how far I have come. Seeing my pieces on the runway and how receptive the audience was to them, blew my mind away.

In some way, I felt validated that I might be on to something really amazing.
An added advantage is that I get to travel more now, another passion of mine, as I do deliveries and have one-on-one discussions with clients.

OA: How do you get dressed in the morning?

CK:  I am a casual dresser. Half the time, you shall find me in jeans and a t-shirt. Whenever I have meetings and glam events though, that is when I put my mind into the dressing.

OA: What’s your take on the Kenya fashion industry?

CK: The Kenyan fashion industry is impressively growing fast.

We are seeing Kenyans being dressed by Kenyan designers for events, and the only way we grow is by supporting our own.

The pioneers have done a great job in growing the industry, but so have media personalities and bloggers like yourselves. You have given designers and fashionistas a platform to express themselves in terms of marketing to the world at large.

OA: How different is the Kenya fashion industry compared to East Africa and Africa’s fashion industry at large?

CK: Our rich culture already sets us apart. The Maasai shuka for example has been widely accepted and has found itself in some international design houses, and so has the kikoi.

OA: Any future collaboration with Kenyan or International fashion designers?

CK: Yes. I am hopeful on this front. Maybe Neomi Nganga will read this and we get to do something.

OA: If you were given the opportunity to work with a local or international fashion designer who will you love to work with?

CK: Locally, Neomi Nganga of Style By Neomi. She has revolutionized plus-size fashion, as I find her designs sexy and eye-catching.
Internationally, Zuhair Murad. He is a genius, so daring with his technique. He always delivers utterly unique and dramatic masterpieces.

OA: What are your thoughts on fashion in Africa?

CK: It is growing tremendously fast. Countries like Nigeria and South Africa are already making enough noise in the fashion industry home and away.

OA: What has changed during this period of Covid-19?

CK: Most fashion designers have started to focus more on online marketing strategies.

Personally, the pandemic has given me room to magnify my creativity and read more. Never did I think I would be designing masks for instance.

OA: How has The Seamstress adopted the new technology virtual fashion show during and after the Coronavirus pandemic?

CK: We will be doing Instagram and Facebook live for virtual shows whenever we release our new collections.

OA: How are African fashion designers influencing fashion in the western world?

CK: Most African designers like pomp and color, and lately we have seen more African prints on the red carpet, as the Western world is already recognizing our African designs.

This can even be seen in as diverse an environment such as Hollywood blockbuster films like Black Panther, where they consulted with African designers for the costume designs.

OA: What can the Kenyan fashion industry learn from the western world?

CK: Owning our products. The Western world has a lot of acceptance and loyalty towards its designers. We should borrow a leaf from that and grow our own African designers.
We can also aim at having more fashion weeks and shows to call for upcoming designers to showcase their outfits, as I believe we have so much talent to offer.

OA: Over the last few years have you noticed any significant changes with the African fashion trends?

CK: Yes, I have. There have been some significant developments. We are seeing more African designers, models, and outfits on magazines and social media platforms, which is a clear indication that the perception of African designs has shifted progressively.

OA: When dealing with Africa is it important for the fashion world to be ethical and socially responsible, and put in place strong corporate social responsibility governance?

CK: Yes. We can’t just take and not give back.
Sustainable fashion needs CSR. It helps build relationships with consumers and stakeholders, and it helps to show the market space precisely what the designers are doing and the positive effects their work has in Africa. Let us never forget that our consumers appreciate transparency.

 

OA: Tell us about The JW Show or Kenyan Fashion week and your experience at the Show.

CK: The JW show is an amazing platform for upcoming designers to showcase their outfits and for seasoned designers to release their collections. The panelist choice was also a wise one; we got to get first-hand information from fashion icons and legends in the industry.

They discussed different parameters in the fashion industry and gave solid advice on how to be fashion-forward and run a house as a business.

OA: Where can we find your designs?

CK: We are currently based online.

Facebook: The Seamstress.ke
Instagram: theseamstress.ke
Facebook: African Lekiondo
Instagram: african.lekiondo
Mobile number: 0101704786

Here you will find our recently released collection Dusk to Dawn and some outfits made for our clients.

OA: Share with the audience your social media platforms or a website

CK: Our Social platforms

Facebook: The Seamstress.ke
Instagram: @theseamstress.ke
Email: theseamstress.ke@gmail.com

OA: What does eCommerce mean to you and your business?

CK: eCommerce means everything! Our business is purely online based.
We are however currently developing our website, which will give us the extra push in the eCommerce world

OA: Do you think eCommerce is important for African fashion designers that are trying to get recognized and reach a global market?

CK: Of course, it is! Ecommerce has opened doors for many businesses locally and globally. It is safe to say that eCommerce is an essential tool in the fashion industry in this modern time.

OA: How does your strategy change when running an online store to an offline store?

CK: When using an Online-to-Offline (O2O) Strategy in our business, both channels share similar significance and importance to The Seamstress in helping us achieve our success.

The Online Channels shall be helpful in widening our reach to not only local stakeholders, but internationally too, through digital marketing and advertising, and draw them into our physical store.

Whilst using the Offline Channel for a physical store, location is our primary strategy as we would wish our discerning customers to feel welcome in our brick-and-mortar when they come for measurements, fittings, and even collecting of their goods.

Finally, due to our industry being fashion, our clients still prefer to physically see, and touch and feel, our outfits when they want to make a purchase, especially if they are first-time buyers.

OA: Where do you see African fashion in the next 5 to 10 years?

CK: I see most celebrities accepting African fashion and embracing it internationally. I strongly believe that we shall be seeing more African designs in the Oscars and Golden Globe Awards amongst other international platforms. We have so much untapped talent and we are about to take the industry by storm.

OA: What 5 pieces of advice would you give to young African fashion designers wanting to enter the fashion industry?

CK: My Advice to young African designer

  • The world is your oyster. All you have to do is spread your wings.
  • Success is not experienced overnight, put in the work and it shall surely come.
  • Social media likes do not equal sales. Clients will buy even without liking your pictures.
  • Every time you feel lost, remember why in a world where you could be anyone you decided to be a designer.
  • Always be true to yourself.

OA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

CK: I would like to thank you for giving me and The Seamstress fashion line by extension, the opportunity for this interview and for deeming us worthy of it. When the names of people and organizations that led the Kenyan fashion industry to be recognized worldwide will be written, yours shall surely be there.

Content courtesy of The Seamstress, African le’kiondo & Nairobi fashion hub 

 

 

Kenyan Fashion Designers and Models : Making Fashion Stories 2021 Calls For Submissions 

Dear Kenyan fashion designers & Models

Designer Spotlight aims to showcase Kenyan designers and makers who center their work around sustainability, transparency, fairness, and equity, telling their stories, educate and inspire crafters and enable them to make informed decisions. We share scenes that tell not just one story, about a Kenyan fashion designer but all rounded We at Nairobi fashion hub publish pieces from a diverse range of voices, we’re interested in exploring and learning from different perspectives and strengthening our community, and we offer a platform for writers who express what they care about in their work.

“Power is gained by sharing knowledge,not hoarding it”

Please send your full submission to social@nairobifashionhub.co.ke

Photo courtesy of Ashok Sunny Tailored Limited

Content courtesy  of Nairobi fashion hub 

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