Your Prêt-a-Porter collection showcased quite a variety of looks
K: There were roughly 25 pieces; 15 looks that we made for the collection. It was inspired by earth and sky. We started with colours, going from the atmospherics of the blues, pinks and the purples in the sky going down to the browns and the blacks.
M: We also connected the two elements – earth and jewel tones and brought in elements such as leather and cotton basics.
Why was this the main inspiration for your introduction to the local scene?
K: It’s a very pure place to start. Starting from nature, earth sky, the hummingbird.
M: It was summer when we were producing our collection so that was a big influence on us. There’s a garden outside the studio where we work and there are a lot of birds in Kileleshwa.
What would you say is the stand out piece for you in the collection?
K: The lavender crop top with the beadwork is really quite stunning. I liked how there were many ideas involved in that. And I like how it encapsulates the theme of the collection very well and our love for leather.
M: The ochre skirt is my favourite because it come out exactly as we had imagined. I also like the ‘all seeing eye’. That was amazing… it’s like a spiritual totem.Would you also do Made to measure?
K: I’d say it’s ready to wear but we can also do made to measure. If you like a piece, you can come in, we’d take your measurements and custom make it to your body type or dimensions. Or we could work with standardised sizing if you provide us with your dress size.
M: We’re not quite at the level of stocking with retailers just yet but we hope to start stocking in a variety of sizes by the end of the year.Who is your target demographic?
K: The creative modern women in her 20s who take risks. Professional women who have a creative bend. She likes a nice, modern silhouette but she also wants something that’s adaptable. She can wear our skirt with a shirt and belt and be ready for work or she can wear it with crop tops and sandals and on the weekend she’s luxe hippy woman. She’s very dynamic and we like the clothes to look different. We don’t have one idea. We want her to take the pieces, filter it through her personality and create something fresh.
[we’re targeting] the creative modern women in her 20s who take risks. We want her to take the pieces, filter it through her personality and create something fresh.
You both seemed quite organised during the launch and stress free
M: Thank you! We do like everything really organised and directness. Tell me what you can deliver.
K: So when we were engaging with the models, Makeup Artists (MUA), caterers, we told them what we needed from them and we made sure that they met those demands. We set our bar very high and we intend that whomever we work with to meet those standards because we ourselves are willing to go there. And I think that everyone grows from that.But I’m guessing you still hit some speed bumps on the way?
M: Lots. One of the greatest challenge was tailors. We’ve worked with some that were a little unreliable during the process. Sometimes wouldn’t even show up.
K: And from a business perspective, finding wholesale fabric that is inexpensive. Right now, the biggest challenge for us is keeping the production costs low. People will generally ask why a piece is so expensive and it’s largely to do with the fact that production costs in Kenya are still very high. We’re working on getting wholesale suppliers from abroad because locally it’s hard to find that here. If we don’t do that, it’s hard to be profitable and fabric at the moment is the most expensive input.
K: It’s hard to say because the process is organic. You’re constantly moving into the unknown. I think it was seeing that I could collaborate and build something with someone. Making sure that our egos don’t get in the way of the final product.
M: Hearing from people who came to the show saying that they were inspired by our teamwork.
The idea is that we want you to have this piece forever. We’re not in the fast fashion model. In our current climate, we need to slow down. We want investment pieces, we want to enjoy good clothes for a long time.
There was a leather crop top piece on Instagram worn by a gentleman… does that mean you’re going to branch into men’s wear too?
K: That’s our hope. Won’t say how many or what right now but we like a challenge.
M: It might be one man coming out at the next season showcase or many. You’ll have to wait and see.
K: The younger [Kenyan] men are getting braver. People are becoming more body conscious and they’re taking care of their bodies now. They’re owning their sexuality, feeling close to their bodies and in command of that in a really beautiful way. It’s my hope that the Kenyan youth will claim their sensuality.
M: It’s already moved from what it was three years ago and we’re seeing more gender fluidity now.What’s the practicality of the clothes? I still have PTSD from wearing leather pants in the early 2000s.
K: The pieces are all lined in cotton and the high end pieces are lined in satin so the leather doesn’t actually touch your skin. It’s all cool around the body and then it’s open around the arms and the torso so there’s constant ventilation.
M: The gauge of the leather is compatible as well. It’s about 1.2 millimetres… that’s as thin as a t-shirt. All of the women who have tried our skirts, especially the railway skirts with zippers down the middle, say it’s very breathable. And practical. Once you get to the office, you can adjust the Zipper up to the knee to make sitting easier and more comfortable.
K: Most of our clothes are either dry cleaned or spot cleaned but whenever you buy a piece, we also provide you with literature on how to clean it and take care of it.
M: The idea is that we want you to have this piece forever. We’re not in the fast fashion model. In our current climate, we need to slow down. We want investment pieces, we want to enjoy good clothes for a long time.
K: Kind of like an heirloom. If you have a daughter you can pass it on to her. This reminds me of my step-grandmother who was half Maasai who gave her traditional Maasai garment to her daughter and that really inspired me.What’s in the works post launch?
M: We’re currently working on tote bags that should be coming out in the next few weeks.
K: This is so that anyone can have a piece of M+K brand’s energy; man, woman or child.
M: We’d love our stuff to be sold in international retail stores but for now we’re literally taking it step by step.
K: You have to walk through all the little steps so that you’re stronger when you’re approached by international retailers. We’re not that hungry that we’d rush to that end without doing the work it takes to get there. So we’ve learnt different aspects of the business – from marketing to photography.
M: We do almost everything for the brand. The great thing about not having cash is that you get to be creative. You also get to have control of your brand. We’re both quite specific about our vision and can get irritated when something doesn’t look right.
I’m always being challenged by someone else’s taste and my environment. It’s a craft and it only stays interesting if you continue to grow your craft…pushing the envelope and offering something new.
K: Sure it would be great to have an assistant down the road but when you learn how to do it you develop a new skill, that’ you’ll get efficient with over time. That is the beauty of doing things by yourself in the beginning and when you do get an assistant you know what exactly your business needs to run and you are confident to ask them of that since it’s something you would do yourself. People respect you more for that.
M: I’m always being challenged by someone else’s taste and my environment. It’s a craft and it only stays interesting if you continue to grow your craft. And people are only interested in your brand if you keep pushing the envelope and keep offering something new. It’s more fun and that’s why I feel I got involved in this line of creative work.Final thoughts: on the local industry
K: I recently read an article about Chanel in Vogue and one of the things was that she encouraged copy. She’d invite illustrators and pattern makers to her shows and basically encourage people to copy and get the idea out there. She understood that she was the genesis and they would help grow the idea because they would do something different with it.
M: This hording of creativity is an issue. The reason why London, Paris, New York and Tokyo are so dynamic is because there’s a lot of sharing. Someone will see the leather crop top and they’ll style it in a new way. We as Kenyans need to do that, and if we don’t we’re just going to limit ourselves.
We need to be careful about being money hungry. Don’t do it for the money because in a way money is a jealous god. If you follow the creative path, and you’re honest to it, I do believe the universe will reward you.
K: We need to be careful about being money hungry. Don’t do it for the money because in a way money is a jealous god. If you follow the creative path, and you’re honest to it, I do believe the universe will reward you.
M: That comes back to transparency … people want the best but they don’t want to reward the creative or understand what it took to create the item. It would be great to see some appreciation and respect for that.
K: When you go for a meeting with a creative, treat them the way you’d treat someone in finance. They are putting in the same amount of work and professionalism. There’s too much taking advantage of creatives in this culture. We need infrastructure and contracts in place to make sure creatives aren’t taken advantage of. It could be the smallest thing like paying to clean the pieces after using them and returning them in a timely fashion. This is where the business of fashion comes in. If we all become accountable for each other it will lift the strain of the creative and lift each other. I think that needs to be talked about a lot more.
M: We need more transparency in the industry- say what you mean and mean what you say.
K: It’s also about taking ownership for your decisions and actions and decide to do it differently tomorrow. It keeps your ego in check. The Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour die by their sword. They take responsibility. Everything passes through them and is given the attention it deserves.
We see ourselves as workmen first, bosses second. We aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty.
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