Nairobi is no stranger to fashion events. Markets, weekend galas, fashion days parading as weeks, you name it. While it may seem at first that fashion is the new ‘IT’ child of company marketing stints, it does show the level of progress the Kenyan Fashion Industry has achieved. The plethora of activity shows there’s a rise in demand and a market for famished fashionistas to feed on. However, unlike some of the more established Fashion weeks, Kenya is still trying to find her footing. A quick [we use the word loosely] search on fashion weeks in Kenya will provide you links with different ‘Fashion Weeks’ with limited information. But here’s what we know so far…
Kenya Worldwide Fashion Week
Formerly known as Kenya Fashion week, this event showcases African and international designers on the runway and in exhibitions. It has had six editions so far, with the last one held at the Royal Orchid Azure Hotel in mid-2015. KWFW hosts local, regional and international designers in a two day extravaganza with a designers list spanning anywhere from 10 to over 30 designers. A VIP red carpet dinner and an after party compliment the event to help guests let lose after all the collections have strutted down the runway. CEO and founder, Sonu Sharma, claims the event was created to align Kenya with global fashion, as well as, unite international designers.
It works on the framework of collaboration and inclusiveness, which allows designers and models to apply to participate. Designers are split into different categories: established designer collections for those who have been in the business for more than five years, emerging designer collections for those who’ve been around for at least three years and the gen next collection for the newbies.
Festival for African Fashion and Arts (FAFA) was born in the midst of the Kenyan post-election violence of 2008. Through art, fashion and music, FAFA aims to celebrate the African continent’s rich diversity by changing the perceptions of communities and bridging the divide between different cultures. Fashion for peace brings together Pan-African guest designers and Kenyan fashion brands for a Gala Dinner and Show that gives proceeds to charity causes. The last showcase was in 2014 whose peace focus was the South Sudan Conflict and Seed of Hope organisation was the charity recipient.
At the moment, FAFA hosts neighbourhood markets that combines food, fashion, music and entertainment in a casual environment. #FoodMeetsFashion which has hosted at the Juniper Kitchen takes on more of a pop-up store feel where brands can interact with shoppers one on one. For the #KilimaniNeighborhoodMarket, in collaboration with the Kilimani Project Foundation, Nairobi Design Week, and The Organic Farmers Market adds an element of health and fitness with a 5km marathon and organic produce to the fashion-music-entertainment combo.
The Tribe Hotel created Tribal Chic in 2009 which brings various charity organisations and fashion lovers together. The glamorous event does have a limited guest list but pas shows have effortlessly drawn a diverse crowd. The usual fashion suspects can be seen in the front row as well as Kenyan business tycoons such as Chris Kirubi. If that doesn’t raise the exclusivity bar, designers showcasing are required to not only use unique and innovative materials, but also novelty collections. That is, they can’t exhibit designs that have previously been on a runway.
The most recent show, Tribal Chic 2015, limited the number of designers to seven to allow full collection exhibition. Designers that made the cut were Adele Dejak, Niku Singh, Anne Mpinga, Nike Kondakis, Jiamini, Deepa Dosaja and Anthony Muli. However, the charity element appears to be as important as the fashion. Tribal Chic has so far raised money for FilmAid Kenya – who seeks to empower communities disadvantaged by war and poverty, The Flying Kites Children’s Home in Kinangop and FA254 which promotes creative, new talent in a bid to re-brand Africa.
Fashion High Tea Kenya
Another Fashion event that has a strong focus on Charity is the highly anticipated Fashion High Tea. The annual event that celebrates Haute Couture in Kenya was started by Payal and Shivani Radia in their restaurant, Zen Gardens. Which makes it only natural that an elaborate menu is an integral aspect of this experience. Guests are treated to variety of cuisines and an open bar to boot.
Fashion wise, there is a mix of local and international designers that either showcase on the runway or in the pop up curios. So you can tick shopping of your to-do list too. But you could borrow a few ideas from the guests themselves because they aim to impress; the gents included. And the guest list is impressive; from noted fashion personalities to political and media celebrities.
Six editions and still manage to specialise in is their sponsorship and media coverage. From bloggers to local and international media houses, their coverage is extensive. Ensuring that both the designers and the charity organisation amidst all the festivities. This year they supported ‘MY ELLA’ which is raising awareness for children suffering from Down syndrome.
Turkana Fashion Week
The planning for the 2016 Turkana Fashion Week may still be in the primary planning stages but they’ve already received a big boost from super model Ajuma Nasenyana. She has joined the organisers to create a fashion week that will be the first of its kind in the region. According to an interview with Word Is, Founder Ignatius Wafula the aim of Turkana Fashion Week as, “To re-script the Turkana basin narrative using fashion as we engage Kenyans and friends beyond Kenya in providing effective local responses to environment challenges. Turkana fashion week will not only demystify this regions’ jewels to the world but also illuminate the new dawn of a unique, diverse and culturally rich resilient populace.”
Turkana fashion week will not only demystify this regions’ jewels to the world but also illuminate the new dawn of a unique, diverse and culturally rich resilient populace.
Core Fashion Week
This fairly new platform was created to fix the incongruent local fashion events in Kenya. Conceptualised by CEO of In The Bag, Linda Murithi, in 2015, Core aims to promote Kenyan fashion design and skills at internationally recognised standards with one coherent voice. But their mandate will span well past fashion week. It plans to nurture and unify local talent by addressing the industry’s challenges through a series of hands-on workshops led by international industry specialists. As well as creating on-going dialogue and creating a local voice – something that has been a shortcoming in the industry thus far.
It’s installation, invite only mixer in Nairobi happened on 29th January 2016 at the Tribe Hotel and it focused on bringing together the efforts of local fashion key industry players. In the spirit of self-expression, each designer showcased their collections in different parts of the hotel that complimented and reflected their style. Some of the designers that showed their collection at the mixer include Aprelle Duany, Anyango Mpinga Deepa Dosaja, Katungulu Mwendwa, Sally Karago, Nike Kondakis, Kepha Maina, urban pieces by Ziko Africa, and accessories by Adele Dejak. Suzie Beauty, Sinitta and Wacuka Thimba came on board to provide makeup artistry support whilst Joey Richard directed hair.
The Core plans to host its preliminary fashion week in April 2016 and the second one later on this year in November.
When it comes to the notion of Fashion Week in Kenya there is a vital need for cohesiveness. It could be as simple as these groups working together to create an actual Fashion Week that fully embraces the business platform. One voice that pushes the country’s narratives while maintaining each designer’s sovereignty. An avenue that provides clarity on what fashion is in the country, where they’re coming from and what they hope to achieve in years to come.