“Despite the different generations that the Kenyan designers tend to fall in, they never disappoint as each of them has a creative mind and unique designs.”
Kenya is a rich country with diverse cultures that give rise to impeccable fashion designs in this country. As an added package Kenyans love to dress up, and they dress according to whatever function they are attending.
This love for fashion has created new designers both upcoming and established, who never disappoint. Despite the different generations that Kenyan designers tend to fall in, they never disappoint as each of them has a creative mind and unique designs.
However, in Nairobi, two tailors are using sewing machines to join, hem, and create gorgeous, patterned bags. Totes created from used jeans are hung on the walls of the studio.
The ready-to-wear, high-end fashion line of designer and creative consultant Kepha Maina is at the opposite extreme of the fashion spectrum in Nairobi.
The human form, architecture, and self-expression all serve as sources of inspiration for Maina. The mid-’00s trend for thin jeans, popularized by British and American indie bands like The Libertines and The Strokes, was a significant factor.
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 Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Comme des Garcons, as well as Azzedine Alaia and Jill Sander, who have been around for a long time.
Maina says that the innovative British designer Alexander McQueen, whom he says “raised” clothes to the level of “art,” was a big influence on him. Maina was profoundly influenced by the late Steve 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.”
He also gets ideas from East African artists like Ibrahim el-Salahi, a famous Sudanese painter and important modernist. Nairobi does not follow seasons because the fashion sector is too tiny, 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 style is sleek, angular, and modernist, setting it apart from other African fashion hubs like Lagos.
SUAVE STUDIO BY MOHAMED AWALE
Mohamed Awale started Suave Studios in 2013. It is now known as one of the most interesting names in the city’s growing fashion industry. It uses leftover textiles to create wallets, passport holders, messenger bags, and other accessories like backpacks.
Awale is inspired by the huge, sprawling Gikomba market in Nairobi, which is the largest market of its kind in East Africa and is open to the public. He claims that “the more bags we sell the more garbage we eliminate.”
For trendy students and young professionals in Nairobi, the tailors make affordable products from used clothing like old jeans, leather jackets, and suits from the US and Europe. Awale even draws business from industry behemoths like Google and markets his goods abroad.
According to the designer, his company started out on the present property with only one room and has since grown. Early this year, the Ethical Fashion Initiative gave him money to go to Florence, Italy, for a two-month fashion program that focused on bags and other accessories. He gained knowledge about bag design, fashion history, and company expansion.
Awale’s vision has been elevated by this experience, and he has chosen to re-launch his label as ‘Rummage Studios’ in September with a new brand identity that is centred on international growth.
The challenge for designers is that the majority of wealthy Kenyans are far more inclined to buy a Hermès purse or a Gucci jacket than they are to buy high-end clothing from a Kenyan designer. Even with these problems, Maina says that the number of designers, stylists, and creative people working in Nairobi has been on the rise for the last few years.
Many of them are attracting attention from across the world, such as 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 seems that there is a creative 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 designs of Maina.