“We are not sure how you came across our creative space but we are ecstatic you found us!” is how this fashion brand begins its introduction to any newcomer that happens upon their site. The brand’s defining attribute is its ability to cater to individual client’s’ diverse styles. In addition, they have tapped into the ready to wear clothing option that isn’t fully exploited by the local fashion and textile scene. We talk to Wangari Kariuki of Iquira to learn about the brand.
What was the idea behind the name Iquira?
The name Iquira was a play on my surname ‘Kariuki’. I spelt the name backwards and removed the last letter!
From public health to design, how did you make the transition?
I always had a passion for design so the transition was not too hard. I designed and sold bags with my friend while studying public health in campus. I also started making jewellery which catapulted Iquira’s growth into clothing. After my first year working in the field, I realised public health wasn’t a passion. I quit, enrolled in a fashion college and the rest is history! Read more of Iquira’s backstory here.How were you assured it would be profitable?
I was not assured but I was ready to take the risk. I was willing to make it a labour of love until it grew to the point it is today.
From jewellery to snoods, how do you pick what you’ll be designing?
I design for myself, so if the cold season is coming up and I need to keep warm I come up with something to solve that issue and take it from there! I love wearing my prototypes and getting genuine feedback from friends and clients.
I was not assured [going into fashion would be profitable] but I was ready to take the risk. I was willing to make it a labour of love until it grew to the point it is today.
What materials do you use and why?
I use anything and everything, I do not limit my work since clothing and taste is so diverse. I incorporate print in chiffon, leather, and fleece; basically anything you would find in your closet
Do you make most of the products personally?
I used to do everything myself but as demand for the products grew I had to get a team to keep the brand effective.
Do you work on collection basis or per order?
I do both custom made/per order and ready-made pieces that are easy to sell online. I realised limiting myself to just one way of doing things was limiting my income so I have had to balance out the two.Ankara is a popular fabric, how do you work with it and still stand out from the crowd?
I like using Ankara sparingly, I realised the client I target likes to have African print but not head to toe. So I incorporate hints of print in everyday items so that even those that usually shy away from it are able to embrace it without feeling overdressed.
We’ve noticed you design for men too… with your trademark being colour and print do you get as many male clients? Or is it a stereotype that men only where ‘safe’ colours?
I don’t have as many male clients but that is not because they like to be safe with their fashion. I just realised women shop more so I might as well focus on them!
I like using Ankara sparingly, I realised the client I target likes to have African print but not head to toe.
What have you noticed about the style evolution of both men and women in Kenya?
Kenyans are become bolder with their fashion and are embracing edgier looks. They are also embracing local designers which is really helping the fashion scene grow.What are some of the challenges you’ve faces so far?
I would love to have a physical shop but the cost of renting a shop is extremely high. Kenyans still love to walk into a shop and touch and try something before they buy so selling online is not always as effective as I would like.
How have you overcome them?
I have had to make sure the quality of our work is extremely good so that any client that buys online is impressed and keeps coming back. Clients that are confident in the products keep coming back and recommending us to their friends.We see Kalekye Mumo is an avid Iquira fan… is this promotional or she genuinely buys from the brand? She genuinely buys from the brand! It really helps to know a client’s style so we have developed a relationship where she trusts us to come through whenever she needs something made for any occasion.
Is there benefit from local celebrities supporting the brands?
Yes there is. They have a huge following and people look up to them for style and recommendations. If I shop where my favourite celebrity shops I feel more connected to him/her. Also if the celebrity thinks something is good enough most people take their word for it!
What can we look forward to in 2016 from Iquira?
We want to start a ready to wear luxury brand where we can dress people for red carpets and formal events.
What is the inspiration?
The custom gown we did for Kalekye for her Birthday party was such a hit that we felt we need to tap into that field. I believe it is still an unexplored field in Kenyan fashion.
When will it be available?
Hopefully by end of this year!As a fashion brand, tips on how you can be cost effective and still be a quality product?
- Buy raw materials in bulk! Shops are happy to give you discounts whenever you buy huge amounts at once.
- Hire interns and train them. They will always be cheaper than a seasoned professional in the same field.
- Collaborate with brands in your line of work. For instance, get a fashion blogger to wear and feature your work on their blog every once in a while.
- Get your friends to model your work! Professional models may be expensive so get friends to do it for you whenever your budget is tight
- Get some photography lessons, invest in a good camera and take images of your work yourself!
Ready to stand out from the crowd? Add a little more colour and creativity into your wardrobe with Iquira by heading to the online shop here.