Getting into this interview, Mugo went straight into it. “The biggest competition is mitumba”. There is a huge price gap between what you can get in toy market and the Junction Mall, he states. “You have to convince people to move away from that”. There is this fixation with foreign brands, “German quality”, gesturing exaggeratingly and mimicking the use of the word “quality” when referring to foreign products. If you grilled people, he states, they would not be able to denote what makes that foreign product “quality” and therefore better than local products. “If I ever hear any of my relatives say cheap is expensive ever again, I am going to throw myself of a bridge,” he states satirically. Mugo Muna continues to mimick the erroneous conclusions of ‘quality;’ one can’t help but laugh at his dramatics and spot on remarks.
Recalling a store he visited with a friend, “it was a boutique with goods from the UK, H&M dresses selling for 7,000,” he remarks astonished. The cautionary tale is that if you focus so much on buying foreign products, the local market doesn’t buy local forming a twisted perception and conclusion on, you guessed it! “quality.” Ironically though, he adds, selling local brands abroad is like a stamp of approval then people are interested in what you are doing.
“Bora Wear: Belts that Matter!”
The other problem, he states, is when someone looks at your dress or bag and says “si, I have a guy!” The famous statement that essentially means you know someone who can replicate the bag for cheaper, a tailor. “Selling locally is a challenge but it’s not impossible. It’s just a challenge I am not ready to get into yet.” Finding designers is difficult, they might have a Facebook page and very few a website. “And then it’s a back and forth then you are told…oh…we are in suite 4, in these apartments in Machakos so like, drop by. It makes it difficult.” For a designer, either you are at BizBaz, craft fairs or selling from home. “I tried one fair before and it was a disaster. It was at a blankets and wine, the weather was not good and people don’t go to blankets to buy stuff.”
“Some people will value more the money but most will value something they have worked for than something given to them.”
Just to show how comical Mugo is, this is what he said when we asked him how he got into launching Bora Wear. He replied “I saw a star fall from the sky, walked up to the crater and saw a meteor. In that meteor was a new ore and it morphed into a belt and I was like…it is a sign from the heavens”, he laughs. In all seriousness, Mugo began with kitenge shirts.
Mugo studied in the US in Cornell University, having lived in the US since he was 11 years old,with all intentions of coming back home and make it a better place following the mantra ‘if not me then who.’ His final degree that he graduated with was economics in 2012. Mugo was taken mostly by developmental economics regarding the benefits of employing people. “Some people will value more the money but most will value something they have worked for than something given to them.” In pursuing the kitenge shirts more, Mugo was introduced to some people in Kibera and looked into how to make good quality products which led him to belts.
“The whole point of making these belts in Kenya is doing something positive. If I read something negative about Kenya, it hurts (he says theatrically gesturing to his heart cringing in pain). I just wanted to do something, something that mattered and worth doing.” Mugo Muna wanted more out of his life, sought to figure it out and is doing just that. Since he graduated, “its been a ride” he says. Mugo is not afraid to admit that is has been a struggle particularly with Kickstarter. “Its tough. You can make a campaign for up to 60 days but you want to keep people engaged and not spam them.” Kickstarter was launched to fund the growing phase of the Bora Wear brand, which will end on 22 August 2014. The funding will support getting the line of belts into peoples hands; mainly producing more and market validation.
“The whole point of making these belts in Kenya is doing something positive.”
Made in Kenya in the US, Mugo says, doesn’t mean much other than that long distance runner, coffee and Maasai. “In Bora Wear, we try to pay people decently for what they are doing, good quality products so as to give something else that Kenya can be identified with.” Bora Wear is a men’s wear brand that focuses on working with local artisans in Kenya. They seek to provide unique, high quality goods that creates a positive impact by empowering people.
Bora Wear belts are handcrafted belts locally produced in Kenya with the highest quality Kenyan leather. The buckle is recycled from scrap metal which is destroyed, melted and molded into unique belt buckles. Bora Wear presents three different styles stemming from the all time favorite Madaraka design in black and brown: the Pilipili (a hammered brass design creating a dimple effect);Tamu (retaining the character of the mold that created it) and Safi (ground and polished to shine). “The manufacturing process means every single belt you get has a human touch. Each belt won’t be the same as the last. They also make bracelets using the same method and material. This process also means that you are directly supporting artisans here in Kenya.” Click on the link below for a video and see more on who Bora Wear is and how it is made.
Check out the belts below and find out more about how you can support the brand in the Kickstarter campaign. Click here.