Having appeared in the Festival for Fashion and Arts (FAFA) after only 5 months of officially launching her brand, Muna Yemane designs for both men and women. Muna Yemane participated in this years FAFA event that took place on 31 May 2014 at the Oval in Westlands. “This was the first big runway that I had done. I have done a show in Watamu Turtle Bay Beach Resort but it was much smaller where I did a small beach collection.” Muna’s collection at FAFA was inspired by Maasai culture and Japanese origami.
“I love clothes and I love dressing up. I love seeing the clothes that I have made on people. I like the final product not necessarily the making of it,” she laughs. For Muna Yemane, fashion has always been her primary interest. Half Eritrean, half Somali but born and raised in Kenya; Muna Yemane went to Australia in 2007 to foundation school studying art design and architecture which eventually led her to fashion. She studied fashion from 2008 graduating in 2011 and returned to Kenya in December 2012. She thereafter worked in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in Public Relations returning to Nairobi in October 2013.
The Muna Yemane brand was officially launched in January 2014. “I love bright colors and I also get my inspiration from architecture and nature.” With some contemporary edge, the African touch and a pop of colour, Muna Yemane’s brand is for “someone who wants wear well designed, sophisticated, well constructed clothes bringing out the feminity of a woman and the masculinity of a man.”
“I don’t like using African print fabrics entirely on collections, mostly because it’s been overdone.”
Her dive into fashion in Kenya has exposed her to certain areas of weakness in the industry. “It is a lot harder to get access to certain tools and supplies such as laser cutting.” She further told us that from what she has seen, the Nairobi Textile Market stocks the same variety of fabrics. “They have variety in products but it’s the same China stuff that you will see everywhere.” She sources her fabrics from Textile Loft in Ngara, who stock imported European fabrics and Memsab. “They stock the quality of textiles that I am happy to work with.” Muna Yemane wishes that there could be textile manufacturers that have good quality fabrics and not necessarily African print. “I don’t like using African print fabrics entirely on collections, mostly because…well…it’s been overdone. I use cotton, wool, silks, synthetics rather than African print fabric.”
At the moment, Muna Yemane makes pieces on request but she would prefer to move into making proper collections. Majority of her clients are men and she would prefer to work with them. “It’s easier to make clothes for men than for women,” she admits. “What I have found in Kenya is that men are more willing to spend money on clothes than women.” This is not to say that Muna does not like designing for women, on the contrary she enjoys it because of how much can be done. However, she exclaims, “ I have noticed that more men are shopping than women because they are not so fussy about the price and making the clothes are less complicated. Men are becoming more fashion conscious and incorporating color in their wardrobes.”
“What I have found in Kenya is that men are more willing to spend money on clothes than women.”
When it comes to stocking one’s collection in retail, Muna is more than aware of the high cost of mall space. In addition, she has also realized that most stores in Nairobi tell her that they only stock clothes from China and Turkey and are very comfortable telling you that, she tells us perplexed. As a Kenyan designer it is much harder to get into stores because present storeowners are happy sourcing their products from China and Turkey then sourcing from Kenyan designers, she remarks. “Or they think that the market is more interested in clothes in Turkey and China. According to me, people tend to look for western clothes and styles but what we get are the remnants and when it comes here it is suddenly expensive when I know for a fact that it is not. We have a long way to go. Someone is going to spend 30-40,000 ksh on foreign products when they can spend less on Kenyan designers.”
“People need clothes and will always need clothes,” she says explaining the need for improved local manufacturing and production. She recognizes that the industry is growing and although it has been in existence for a while, “it is still not being paid much attention to.” What she also noted is that the quality of students coming out of Kenyan universities teaching fashion are not up to par with international standards. “The institutions need to be improved and be ready for the industry.”
“People need clothes and will always need clothes”
Right now, Muna Yemane’s collection is based on what was presented in FAFA; “that was a preview of what is coming up.” Not only does she create men and women’s wear, Muna is also looking to expand her range of products and dive into accessory design (jewelry and bags) using materials like bronze, brass, beadwork, leather. Her favourite Kenyan designers are Kooroo and Aryam Designs for their use of fabrics and especially the latest laser cut collection from Kooroo.
To see more on Muna Yemane, check out her Facebook page. Website is under construction.