Launched in 2017, Enanai is a Kenyan fashion brand that views bags as more than a functional addition to your ensemble. They are a personal statement, status symbol, fashion accessory and a form of self-expression all rolled into one. Hence, whatever bag you choose to travel with possesses just as much importance as its contents. It could be a trip down the street or jet setting around the world, no matter where your travels take you, your bag should always possess a level of style, luxury and quality. We speak to Shalini Sapra, the founder of Enanai, to find out more:
What does Enanai mean?
It’s a Maasai word that means soft, gentleness. There isn’t a direct translation for luxury in the Maasai dialect. So, I searched for a pleasant word that would reflect the qualities of something being very nice, soft and gentle and we settled on Enanai. I chose to use a Maasai word because I didn’t want to work with a generic name; it had to be something that people hadn’t heard before. A unique name that people would ask more about providing exposure for my brand, as well as, learning more about different parts of Kenya.
How did Enanai begin?
I’m always travelling, and so I appreciate a bag that can be functional without being so bulky. A well fitted bag that can accommodate all you need to travel with but still looks exceedingly pleasant. After finishing university in Canada, I went to The London School of Fashion for a month-long course where I did Fashion Design. After that, I went to Milan for another month-long course on Fashion Design at The Istituto Marangoni. When I came back, I made a small pouch and my friends loved it and it started from there.
Are you designing for a specific demographic?
I don’t want to narrow it down to a specific type of person because I’ve had so many different types of people buy my bags. I’ve had young teenagers going to university buy the bag, to working women and housewives, so I think that the bag should be for everyone.
We saw one of the travel bags going for a considerably affordable rate, which we thought must have been a typo…
Because I’ve just entered the market, I wanted to start at a low price point that would make people take notice; gaining exposure for the brand. So, I introduced a price range of KSh3,000 – KSh20,000 with wallets for men being on the lower spectrum. My most expensive piece at the moment is the Tsavo bag. It’s a mahogany-red coloured bag with antique brass and gold finishing. However, the bags that I am designing now will be even more high end. The new collection should be out in around two months. But you’ll still be able to get our signature bags such as Savannah and K bag.
You want to divulge a little bit about what to expect?
I think I’ll leave that a surprise. I can tell you that it will still be in the travel category and you can expect a little bit of luxury backpacks.
Black strongly prevails in the current offering. Will we see more colour moving forward?
The reason why there is so much black is because I ordered a lot of first grade leather in that colour. I’m not the sort of person who wants to get one or two skins of leather from a middle person. If I’m getting leather from other sources, and just one or two pieces, it may be second or third grade. I want it all to come from the tannery, so, I go to Alpharama tannery in Athi river. I make huge orders of just one colour because I know for sure that it’s going to be the best quality. To begin with, I wanted to start with one colour, one sort of top grain texture and then start experimenting a little bit more with the tannery.
Ordering leather on that scale must pose its own set of challenges?
I don’t get the material straight away. For the exact texture or colour that I want, I must wait four weeks. That’s a problem. Also, the hardware for the bags, the buckles and the zips, they aren’t readily available in Nairobi so having to get that is always a mission. I have to order those from places like Germany.
But it’s not just leather, is it?
I’ve done a little suede and canvas with the leather. I’m currently experimenting with a couple of clothes and semi-precious jewellery. The end-goal is to build a fashion house.
Why did you choose bags as your introductory product?
We have such amazing leather here. The leather at Alpharama goes to some of the best places in the world such as Ferarri. It made me wonder why we aren’t using the leather here to make good leather bags instead of just exporting the raw resource.
What would be a dream partnership for you?
I do want to go to Italy to work with artisans. Not the big designers but someone that’s been making bags for years. Take their skills and combine them with the Kenyan skills. For instance, combining the bead work Kenya is known for with Italy’s perfected art of working with structured leather bags and shoes.
Where do you see the brand in five years?
I want to get a studio space where people can come and see the different types of leather and we can make more custom bags; because I really want to get more into that. It would be a nice space where people design with me, see how the process develops and maybe even have a small coffee shop as well. I want my brand to be global. I do want to expand my team as well. I also want to explore the idea of painting on leather further.
It’s interesting that you want to explore custom orders further. Why is that?
I do really enjoy making custom orders because everyone has a different feel. I like to work with the client so that it still has an element of my identity as well.
The high-point of your journey so far?
I feel like it’s my own family and friends loving my bags and trusting me to design something for them – that has been my highlight. Everyone trusting me to make them something that they want to use.
Being fairly new, it’s understandable that you’re still figuring out your brand and the direction you want to take. What makes you silence the fear and continuously jump into the unknown?
I like to take a risk and it’s worth it. If you don’t take the risk I feel like you’re never going to get something that’s completely unique or something that’s completely out there. You just must keep experimenting.