EA Flavour: Here’s How Kenyan Designers Do Athleisure

It’s no secret that Kenyans dominate in the world of Athletics. But just because you’re not smashing world records doesn’t mean you can’t get into the athleisure and own the trend. Or make your own designs for that matter. A quick search will immediately point you to VIVO Activewear. A brand that started off as active wear and successfully transitioned into a lifestyle brand that complements the modern woman’s lifestyle. (You can read more about them here). But they aren’t the only Kenyans in the game of comfort and style.


“Look pretty while sweating”. That’s the hope of this brand created by Kenyan-born Yema Kahlif; with help from business partner Georges Monatin.  The light apparel, made of spandex and polyester, wants women to be comfortable and confident in their wear all day. Thus the choice in material, which prevents and disguises sweat stains as well as the bright hue palette to stand out from the crowd.  YEMA also wants women to be empowered and love their curves. Consequently, the brand decisively uses fuller figured, athletic, every day ladies as models.

[Image: YEMA]

While the women’s line is manufactured in Los Angeles in the USA, his Jambo by YEMA line is a collaboration with skilled talent in Kenya and Ethiopia. The collection of casual Jambo shoes manufactured in Kibra while the polo shirts and handmade in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Recycling is part of this operation, with materials such as recycled rubber sole and shuka going into the creation of the shoe line.

[Image: Azizal Shehri / YEMA]

Yema negus polo (Gold) [Image: Azizal Shehri / YEMA]


Yema Kahlif draws a lot of inspiration from his upbringing in Kibera (Kibra). Through Road to Freedom Scholarship (RFS), which educates children living in extreme poverty, Yema was able study at Dominican University of California in San Rafael. He donates US$5 of every purchase to RFS to support girls’ education in Kibra.

[Image: YEMA]


CORE’ is a Kenyan Active Wear brand founded by Rehanna Merali in 2015. Born out of love for yoga and fitness, the brand follows the ideology that we feel better when we dress in clothes that make us feel happy. She began to design her own active wear to provide a product for Kenyans, by Kenyans. Hence the introduction of jackets, tank tops, pants and sports bras under the CORE banner.  The bright colours and bold prints offer an upbeat allure that compliments the spirit of a confident woman on-the-go.

[Image: CORE Active Wear]

[Image: CORE Active Wear]


While it comfortable fits into the leisure bracket, it is designed to be highly functional. CORE is a firm believer in ‘a healthy body breeds a healthy mind’. Hence the choice of sweat wicking, breathable materials to keep moving, fashionably. An added bonus is the incorporation of a pockets in the pants for your valuables; an element that tends to be overlooked in the athleisure trend.

[Image: CORE Active Wear]

[Image: CORE Active Wear]


This line needs no introduction, as everyone Zawadi Nyong’o and The Kenyan First Lady has been seen in this brand. But if we had to, we’d refer to a quote from Lornah’s Website. “Wearing Lornah is feeling the spirit of Africa. On your skin, in your soul, in your life.” Lornah Sports is the brainchild of Kenyan-born long-distance running legend Lornah Kiplagat, and was designed to provide colour, comfort and coverage for runners. But these designs, made with exceptional fit and fine fabrics in mind, can be worn effortlessly by the masses.

[Image: Lornah Sports]

Aesthetically, the logo says it all. While designing it, a combination of Lornah and a lion, they were inspired by catchwords such as Africa, excitement, Sexy, power, active, sunny and happy running style. The outcome is a bold concept that is easily recognisable and fit perfectly into your leisure or daily lifestyle. With four world titles and five marathon wins under her belt, you know that performance and functionality is another key aspect for this band. Their mission is to provide the best quality to allow customers to use the apparel intensively and that it has a long wardrobe life.

Kibibi tank top [Image: Lornah Sports]

[Image: Lornah Sports]



Founded by Bevern Oguk and Collins Karanja, this Kenyan Fashion Brand was established in 2011 in Kibra.  With a rich heritage of art, they are looking to reinvent urban active wear by bridging the gap between Luxury and Mainstream Fashion. With a strong sense of community and inspired by their humble beginning, they’ve released this  ‘Youthful Luxury’ take on athleisure that offers clothing, shoes and accessories for both men, women and kids. An interesting angle of the brand is their decision to transcending gender. Not wanting to force binary gender choices, they manufacture unisex designs.

[Image: Arthur Keef of Keef Photography / Co-be]

[Image: Co-be]


Their accessory division in particular works to create mind-opening opportunities for Kibra locals in a bid to solve problems in their society. One aspect is their choice to offer employment opportunities to men and women in Kibra, irrespective of age. They made the decision to use raw materials ethically. They also use upcycled and repurposed materials in an effort to safeguard the environment for future generations.

Muthoni Drummer Queen for Co-be [Image: Muthoni Drumer Queen / Co-Be]

[Image: Co-Be]

The athleisure industry is too big to be ignored. Euromonitor International attribute the growth in 4% in 2016, which valued the global apparel and footwear market at $1.7trn, to this trend .And as a country that thrives on the sports and athletic arenas, we should seize the opportunity and flex our creative design spirit. If you have a Kenyan athleisure brand or know of one, new or established, share with us in the comment section below. Let’s spread the word!

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