Zamoyo Part II..Continues…
With Africa growing in recognition for its fashion and design, Larissa believes that there has been an appropriation of African culture. Zamoyo’s core mission lies in the preservation of culture seeking to respond to the primary question: “how do we preserve culture in our fashion and appeal to the evolving consumer with their tastes being influenced by global fashion trends?” Her response is that involves a fine balance between creating pieces that are strongly tied to traditional cultural heritage and remaining bold and progressive. “The more involved we get within the industry, the more work I realize has to be done in creating our own voice,” she says.
With the global markets being 40 years ahead of the curve in building their fashion industry, Larissa strongly believes that we, as Africans, need to work harder to create our own style resulting in a unified voice that is recognized as African fashion. The greatest strength and weakness of African fashion is in its diversity and simultaneous lumping together despite distinctions created between, for example, Italian and French fashion, Larissa explains. Zamoyo therefore seeks to play a role in defining Kenyan fashion within and out of Africa.
Having said that, Larissa’s experience in the reception and adoption of Kenyan brands locally and internationally is yet to be at the level it should. With “the reception and adoption happening in bursts and clusters, the Kenyan consumer is still wary of design products from price to quality.”
It’s about time that Africa was at the forefront of change in fashion and simultaneously the rise of African fashion industries. “A lot of people don’t know how much our own culture has influenced fashion. For example the Turkana loin cloth which some could argue inspired the thong as we know it.” For Larissa, the promotion of these industries is integral in creating a sustainable industry for all those in the value chain from the fashion designer to the artisan. There is no reason, she continues, for those involved to have to supplement their incomes when it is a viable economic trade.
When she began, Larissa found that not much was happening and information on the designers across the continent was hard to come by. However, the proliferation of media and awareness raising initiatives has helped in giving more voice and standing making it more encouraging for those seeking to delve into the industry.
“The Kenyan fashion industry needs to take curiosity, originality and boldness to another level to truly stand out.”
Locally, the unfortunate situation is that Kenyan fashion industry is “not appreciated, not recognized and not easily accessible,” she tells us. Larissa believes that the infrastructural issues hamper the growth of the local designers from supply acquisition to interaction points with Kenyan brands. She also believes that the government should create a more conducive environment for the industry to thrive such as lessening taxes on supplies and increasing taxation on imported goods.
Having said that, the Kenyan fashion industry needs to take curiosity, originality and boldness to another level to truly stand out from behind the veil of comfort. Speaking of originality, Larissa has not been spared from the reality of copycats. The first time she saw her pieces copied, it was first shock and then flattering as someone was inspired by her work. The same cannot be said to perpetual copying, which she describes as “infuriating.” The work of a designer is long, personal and tasking from design to final product, she explains.
“If you call yourself an artist push yourself, find your own voice, that is what will strengthen the industry at large.”
“It’s painstaking, filled with a lot of emotion because it’s a part of you and that journey contributes to self-discovery as a designer,” she describes. When someone chooses to simply copy, she adds, one feels threatened, demoralized and contributes to the paranoia and fear of putting your work out there. “What kind of mentality are you fostering when you blatantly steal a design?” she asks. “The effects of this stifle the innovation that is necessary in a creative industry. If you call yourself an artist push yourself, find your own voice, that is what will strengthen the industry at large.”
For the Zamoyo brand, Larissa is currently working on increasing awareness of the brand on a global level and increasing accessibility. The new Zamoyo collection is called “Skai” exploring the use of Zulu and Masaai beading technique and taking a step further in using more metal work to complement the decorative beaded pipes. The Afro-gladiator bracelet, pictured below, has been a big hit locally and in Europe.
For up-coming fashion designers seeking to launch into the fashion industry, Larissa advises that they shouldn’t be fooled that it is all glitz and glam as the media portrays it to be. The final image of a glitzy launch does not accurately reflect the years and hard work put into getting there. “It won’t happen overnight and you must do your research, know your market in terms of buying and style trends, and your consumer,” she elucidates. Furthermore, Larissa could not stress any further that a fashion designer runs a business so knowing your figures, capital to running costs, creating adequate and sustainable systems and processes is crucial. On top of that, upcoming fashion designers need to be prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades in their business. “Organization is key, be professional, stick to your word and respect everyone across your value chain. Lastly, as a designer, you’re a creator-don’t forget to HAVE FUN and enjoy the ride!”
Truly an honor in getting the story behind the Zamoyo brand from Larissa whose point of view and experience is invaluable to the fashion industry. We are keenly watching to see her brand grow, prosper and lead the way with other great Kenyan brands.
*Images copyrighted to ©Zamoyo