Polka Boka: Rebranded

The urge to call them the comeback kids is strong within us. For a brand that started in 2013, it quickly garnered the support from the local scene and was in the public domain up until the end of 2014. It has been a hiatus of two years for the brand, with a limited online foot print. However, during our last interview with the Bonsus, Kwame was very quick to clarify that they had never left. True to their word, they are launching their lookbook this September. Have the two years changed the brand that we’ve come to love? We catch up with Yaa Bonsu to find out more.

Let’s start at the beginning and hear from Yaa Bonsu… What is the meaning behind the brand name?

It means everything in a box hence the powerful symbol circle inside a square. The name was initially Poka Boka. Kwame’s girlfriend at that time came up with it and we thought it was catchy. We eventually added in the L and changed it to Polka Boka to add a modern and fashionable feel. Polka dot also happens to be one of our favourite prints so it worked out.

Earlier Content: Amal Trey in Polka Boka [Image: Joe Makeni]
Earlier Content: Amal Trey in Polka Boka [Image: Joe Makeni]
Why did you start?

Kwame has had extensive experience in international high end fashion retail and he wanted to create the same experience under a Kenyan brand.

Last we spoke, both you and Kwame insisted that Polka Boka never left the scene but why has the brand been out of the limelight for 2 years?

I’ll be honest with you we are not in a hurry to be on “the scene” or in “limelight” until we are sure that the exposure places us on the right track.  We’ve been taking it step by step to re-construct and see where exactly we want to be as a brand.

Earlier Content: Amal Trey in Polka Boka [Image: Joe Makeni]
Earlier Content: Amal Trey in Polka Boka [Image: Joe Makeni]
What labels did you used to carry under the brand?

We used to stock up Western commercial fashion labels such as H&M and Zara. At that time there was a high demand for European/Western brands as compared to now, where we are mentally shifting towards African based designers.

Describe the brands style and the target audience.

Our style is greatly inspired by luxury, feminine flair and minimalism. Our brand is made for the fun and provocative yet mature and conservative woman who likes to keep it simple, classy and chic in whatever context she is in.  We create practical yet elegant pieces that can be dressed down or up for any occasion.

Previous Content: Rehema Omar in an H&M Dress [Image: Phocus Photography]
Previous Content: Rehema Omar in an H&M Dress [Image: Phocus Photography]
What kind of reconstructing and rebranding has the brand gone through and why?

The logo has changed to begin with as we decided to go for something simple and modern. Our style has transitioned to a more refined and mature look.

What aspects of Polka Boka did you decide to change and why?

We now produce our own clothing as compared to when we started as a concession store. We decided to make the most out of our creativity, Kwame and I have enjoyed designing clothes from a very young age so this is a great step. Being a designer has always been one of our life long goals, I think some of my sketches date to about a decade ago. I decided to use Polka Boka as an opportunity to share what I have with a large audience.

There has also been a developing interest for ready to wear pieces in African fashion. There is a high demand for practicality from the African consumer which automatically creates a potential market for young designers from the region.

Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Is it still collaboration between you and Kwame… especially with you both being in different countries?

Yes, we always keep in touch. Kwame is the CEO and I am the Creative Director and we work as a team. We always share any ideas and or developments concerning the brand.

What is the process like? (e.g. the process from sketches to selecting your tailor team to distribution).

I currently work with a team of four tailors here in Dubai. Once I have my sketches down I select the precise fabric then we start off with the cutting.  Playing with the fabric is the tricky part. You want to ensure that the fabric texture, colour and print is manipulated to flatter the design/shape of the dress. A fitting needs to be done before the pieces are finalized and some designs are modified to become more appealing. (Sometimes you try on a dress and realize it would look better as a skirt so you chop it off)

Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Challenges through it all.

Relocating has been a challenge and building a client base from scratch is not simple. Selecting the perfect tailor that understands the importance of pedantry and quality. I am always grinding my team when it comes to finishing and cut to ensure all my pieces are client ready. We are also trying to venture into mass production and retail. That requires a lot of time, planning and research.

What was the inspiration and theme behind this collection?

I was inspired by rich elements, jewels and fabrics such as gold, tanzanite and silk, hence you can spot some blues and metallic yellows in some of the pieces. My time in the Middle East also inspired me to fuse in some traditional Arabesque and Indian prints.

Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
What are some of the stand out pieces from this collection?

It will have to be the gold shift dress. I love the richness and stiffness that comes with the fabric. It is a very simple silhouette but it still stands out.

Will it be available in Kenya or how will people be able to access it?

At the moment we are not yet at the stage of mass production but we can ship directly to clients. We eventually intend to set up an e-shop and stock up with local concession stores. The price range for this new collection will be anywhere between KShs6,500-15,000 depending on the piece and detailing. We will also continue to stock other labels under Polka Boka but selectively.

Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
Previous Content: Showcase at Naivasha Fashion Weekend [Image: Fotogeric]
What’s next for Polka Boka?

Well this is a mini collection and I intend to create several sub collections under different themes that will assist in defining the brand before we officially set off.

There’s no doubt that Bonsu’s are in it for the art of it. Even after a little prodding from the team… we’ve only managed to get a little snippet from their new collection.

New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK A [Image: Subira Mombo]
New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK A [Image: Subira Mombo]
New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK B [Image: Subira Mombo]
New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK B [Image: Subira Mombo]
New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK C [Photo Credit: Harper's Bazaar Cafe Launch]
New Collection Sneak Peak: LOOK C [Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar Cafe Launch]
New Collection Sneak Peak: Yaa Bonsu in a White Dress she designed [Image: Subira Mombo]
New Collection Sneak Peak: Yaa Bonsu in a White Dress she designed [Image: Subira Mombo]
They stay true to their timelines and their craft; holding all their cards close to their chest until the time is right. All we can do is sit back in anticipation.

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