“I think that there are a lot of people who are exploiting fashion and not in a positive way.” Having said that, Ogake Mosomi, the designer behind the brand Ogake, is excited about the rising development and growth in the fashion industry in Kenya. Having been back in the country for the past 4 years, Ogake remarks that there has been heated talks and debate on fashion with everyone trying to get involved. “There are all these conversations, people love each other, others hate each other but you can see that we are just about to give birth to something amazing. There are many things that people are talking about, it’s a good thing.”
“It’s exciting, it’s a good place to be and it’s nice that there are people documenting it.”
These conversations are especially evident on Facebook where she catches up on what people are saying on how the fashion industry in Kenya should be heading. “You get off Facebook for five minutes and there are like hundred messages. It’s exciting, it’s a good place to be and it’s nice that there are people documenting it.” Ogake is truly excited about the energy in the fashion industry and the remarkable strides that are being made. People are coming together, in one forum or another, to discuss the way forward which is a step in the right direction.The most recent discussion, she stated, is about the value of the fashion shows that are being done in Kenya. “People are out of it and nobody is excited about the fashion shows anymore.” At the end of the day, she notes, you get there, charged a huge amount as a designer and spectator, spend so much on making the collections without a guarantee that it will be sold. She adds, “then maybe one person will come over to buy and say ‘woiiiye sii you’re show is over I can get it at a discount’ which is sad.”
Ogake has noted that people are now tired, feeling that there is no real value to having so many fashion shows without them being beneficial at the end to fashion designers who put so much work, effort and money to do them. Being in the industry, there is definitely a change taking place for the better with all manner of topics and hopes being shared by different stakeholders. She still noted, that in order to move forward, “we need do something unified and consistent that is actually selling the fashion designers and the industry in a positive serious light.”
Ogake is truly excited about the energy in the fashion industry at present and the conversation taking place
She also mentioned that in other established fashion cities like London or New York, people go to the events to see the fashion and nothing else. With buyers, fashion magazine editors, sales people, big store representatives at those shows, here in Kenya it is more about entertaining. “What press are attending these shows? Who is attending?” Most people who attend these fashion events, she continues, are there for entertainment who will not buy the products. It’s disheartening, she says exasperatingly.
Ogake feels that for the industry to keep moving forward and improving, as it does, “there needs to be a fresh bunch of people to take the industry forward like a Fashion Council to agree and set up the rules that govern fashion. If we can’t have that, then we will not be taking seriously and still be considered fundis.”
She further added that people in the industry need to stop taking things personally. Not getting over egos has resulted in the industry going nowhere slowly, she remarked. “There is too much ownership, which is wrong seeing as though we are still very small and not yet cohesive.” It is however an exciting time to be part of the industry, she remarks, as people are coming together to find ways to bring that cohesiveness even though this may take some time.
The older fashion designers are trying to help out, she says, such as Anne McCreath who is trying to share information and help out where she can in addition to growing her brand, Kiko Romeo. Pat Mbela is also another designer she has noted who took steps out to help and pass on skills and valuable knowledge for becoming a fashion designer.
Ogake, in addition to her brand, teaches at the University of Nairobi a new fashion course for 3rd and 4th years which is a great intuitive to pass on skills of the trade. Pat Mbela was one of the designers who agreed to assist when approached by Ogake and taught a semester about pattern cutting. “She is meticulous, did an amazing job and was really involved. Her knowledge is amazing and she can really mentor and teach the younger designers.”
Mentorship from established designers, she states, is important as young designers need to learn the ropes before planing into business. However, established designers also need create a chain of succession so that when they are no longer designing their brands, their ethos lives on. “People are too quick to rush into forming all these small companies rather than working with an established company for five years, get your good experience, build that company so that by the time you are leaving you will have solid information and possibly a mentor.” This way, rather than having many small lower impact brands, we are training up newbies to strengthen existing brands into bigger establishments with greater impact. For Ogake though, sharing information does not bother her despite the fact that is not right for the younger designers to take advantage of the benefit.
Despite this partial reality, there are those who are not hanging on to that ownership. Older established designers have imparted their knowledge, she states, noting in particular Anne McCreathe who shared opportunities and encouraged her for which she is eternally grateful. There are designers, like herself and other industry professionals, who have shared what they have learnt with a sense of community starting to develop.
To be continued…Find out more about Ogake’s views and experience in the fashion industry in Kenya as well as how her brand came to be in Part II. Photos courtesy of Ogake Mosomi.
Sneak peak at what to come 🙂