When you think of the coast, you imagine palm trees, wind, warmth, sun, sounds of the ocean and beach. How about the perfect coastal bag that carries that spirit of coast? Denise Noordermeer, the founder of Canvas and Kangas, was raised in Kenya, settled back in Kenya with her family in 2013 with the life, colors and people inspiring her to share her love in a more tangible way. Canvas and Kangas was founded and is based in Mombasa and Amsterdam in 2014 with their factory in Ukunda.
Although not trained as a fashion designer, Denise designs from the heart and started of by designing one bag at a time which gave her satisfaction and inspiration to pursue her brand. Her late mother had tried to teach her tailoring as part of her upbringing but it never stuck with her. Right now, Denise believes that her late mother would be proud to see her delving into it and working with talented craftsmen.
Canvas and Kangas is a brand that ensures the use of natural and local Kenyan materials to ensure the best quality for their lifestyle products. For Denise, the brand is more than the product, it is meant to “give people a smile with [their] love for Kenya in creating sustainable employment with a fair wage.”
“Every product is one of a kind. We never make the same bag twice so we need to stay creative and deliver continuity.”
Starting out, the greatest challenge she had to face was maintaining high quality with every product. The designs are made step-by-step testing and improving the first samples to make them better. Essentially, “It is the craftsmanship and by training and good understanding that we are able to give our uniqueness and high standard in every product. Every product is one of a kind. We never make the same bag twice so we need to stay creative and deliver continuity,” Denise tells us.
Canvas and Kangas started off with the shopper/beach bag (pictured below), which Denise still uses and produces. The evolution of the bags are primarily in the color variations, color combinations and designs remaining true to the essence of the brand and the shopper/beach bag that started it all. Now the full collection (for him & her) consists of envelopes, tote bags, document cases, business bags and gorgeous travel bags. Their kanga designs rotate on a weekly basis so as to give the brand new and inexhaustible inspiration. This also entails one on one communication with the customer to create for them a bag that will meet their needs. Finding inspiration in the small things in life and nature, the Canvas and Kangas bags are sure to remind you of the beautiful beaches, the colors, wildlife and safari of Kenya.
Canvas and Kangas are not all about bags but have extended their product base of lifestyle products to home and garden adding cushions to the mix. “To bring our brand into the Home & Garden, our customers can distinguish their atmosphere, relax and spend quality time in a one of a kind way,” explains Denise. An entrepreneur at heart, Denise has worked in different fields of industries mainly from tourism to marketing. With over 15 years of experience in marketing, Denise has learnt how to develop a business and a brand. Fashion, however, still remains quite new to her. Her upbringing in Kenya and her strong marketing experience have been key to the success of the brand. “I am able to translate the true Kenyan taste into the brand and also know how to build a brand,” she says.
With designs made from the heart, reflecting the beauty and vibe of Kenya, designed in the coast with select materials sourced locally, what is not love about Canvas and Kangas?
Here is a quick look into their products, which may just become a necessity in your collection.
In part II, we delve deeper into the Denise Noordermeer’s views and observations on the fashion industry in Kenya.
*Images courtesy and copyrighted to ©CanvasandKangas