John Kaveke speaks truthfully about his sabbatical, the fashion industry and what needs to change in Kenya- Part II


Right now the international focus is on Africa, Kaveke says, and people are looking here for inspiration. “Now is the best time to start cultivating what is local.” The major problem is that “here in Kenya, we have conflict because if the fashion industry needs to blossom, it requires all the team players.”  The fashion industry will not grow, he says, if we do not speak in one voice. Bickering and classicism and segregation and oneness are what is killing the fashion industry at the moment, Kaveke remarks. “The industry needs to settle down and look at the bigger picture and stop having a hundred and one events while we evidently lack the capacity. We are not that many designers.” 


“Why the hell do we have Nairobi Fashion Week and Kenya Fashion Week?” Kaveke remarks, this is pointless to have two such events, amongst the myriad of many more, clearly demonstrating that fashion has simply become a money making venture.  In 2011, he explains, Vogue Italia came to do a story on fashion in Africa, which shows that there is something in Kenya yet we, here, are unable to see it. “Are we putting parameters in place for something great that is coming our way. It starts by the little things we do. Working towards a goal for the fashion industry as a whole.”

He further stated that the industry is filled with “wannabees” simply because, there is no reason why one city has so many fashion events yet the fashion industry is not a source of income for the country. Why not spread them to other major cities then? The industry, he states, is not stable. “If we stabilize, we can all reap.”

It starts by the little things we do. Working towards a goal for the fashion industry as a whole.

The industry is spread so thin that the quality is depreciating, he further states.  In addition, he explains, the industry is now segmented into clicks. “We are dying when we are supposed to be alive” seeing as though we are not having standardization and putting the industry in place.  Parameters are also necessary, he continues, such as quality consistency, guidelines and accreditation to allow you to sell in stores.

John Kaveke does not consider himself better than anyone in the industry. “It is time for us to work for the industry and not to make the industry work for us. We need to make room for those coming. People like me, are on our way out but not without putting my time to impact the industry.” All he is trying to convey is the need to be united in the industry with set guidelines on the industry so as to take the industry seriously. “I want the industry to be more grounded otherwise we will go in circles and we will kill the industry. This industry will not be here forever. If we don’t build this industry strong for the next generation, they will complain about the same thing.”

We have talked about the challenges in the fashion industry; we should start speaking about what we need to do about it.

The fashion industry should be monitored, governed and scheduled to follow the fashion calendar. There needs to be a vetting process to participate. “Competition is very healthy. Right now designers can easily say, if I miss FAFA, I can do Naivasha, if not Nairobi Fashion Week, if not…that is not how it should be.”  Kaveke further states that there has to be an educational aspect to these events such as workshops to assist designers and providing directions on how to attract buyers.

“Fashion is an expression and it is very strong. It is usually an expression of oneself that you make it to become beautiful. There is nothing wrong with that.” As a designer, Kaveke warns that the aim is to sell not just to create. Kaveke is all about changing the industry and speaking the harsh truth about it. There is the danger of simply following the system to your detriment, he explains. “We have talked about the challenges in the fashion industry; we should start speaking about what we need to do about it.”

“Right now, we are just a forum, we are not really an industry.”

Kaveke is returning to the industry to influence change, build it and not to entertain  anymore on the complacency already established. Being a fashion designer is real business not entertainment only.

“Relevant does not work. Being part of change is not going to be easy, you are going to step on people’s toes and create enemies. The problem is we fear enemies, I don’t. I have had the run of being the nice guy, it’s enough. I want to do it for my daughter so when she starts, she enters into a well-established industry. Right now, we are just a forum, we are not really an industry.”

John Kaveke has been in the industry, has had fame for long enough to speak confidently about the need to change things. He is passionate about making Kenya a fashion hub but he is also prepared to speak against old habits and mediocrity that have plagued this industry before it has a chance to really grow. A well known proverbial quote states “be the change you want to see in the world.” John Kaveke is prepared to do just that and we stand behind his cause 100%.

Take a look at a Maasai Mara shoot: Photos by Emmanuel Jambo, Model Lynette Anderson, makeup Muthoni Njomba and clothes by John Kaveke. More on John Kaveke on his Website and his Facebook page.

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