It would seem that the fashion industry in Kenya is booming. But is it really making an impact. Its one thing to have events right left and center but is there a change in the way Kenyans are dressing? Are designers setting the mark of what is trendy for a particular season and being internationally competitive? Are designers changing the face of dress in Kenya?
The issue here is simple. Are innovative trends being made or are we simply being bombarded with the same clothes, same cut, same material in different angles fooling us that it is different when it really has been the same thing all along? It is encouraging to see the rise of pro-Africa using materials like Kitenge, Ankara (pictured below) and such like materials but the question then is; to what end? Now that we have seen every single possible item of clothing being done with these materials, is that all we are going to get? The Ankara bag, the Ankara jumpsuit, the Ankara pumps, the Ankara maxi dress, the Ankara earrings, the Ankara men’s shirt, the Ankara bag, the Ankara bracelet, the Ankara jacket…etc…you get the point.
This is not to say that Ankara/Kitenge are not beautiful and versatile materials and we should use them. The problem is rather the overuse of these materials for the same type of garment in the same fashion (no pun intended). It is not hard to find three designers who have made Ankara/kitenge pumps which cannot be distinguished one designer from the other.
Here is why there is an issue with that. Not only is it just the same dresses and same pants and same shoes with Kitenge and Ankara all day every event, it is not really setting any kind of trend. The only trend being made is that more and more people are simply replicating a garment in Ankara/Kitenge over and over. There is only so much Kitenge and Ankara garments a person can have in their wardrobe. Furthermore, it does not seem to translate to the public on a day to day (which is the point right?). Look around and count the number of people wearing Ankara/Kitenge anything. When you go to a café or to a restaurant there may be 2 people wearing Kitenge/Ankara something and that is if you are lucky enough. What that means is that despite the Blankets and Wine ( an afro-based picnic styled music festival) and the occasional wedding, Kenyans are not really wearing Ankara/Kitenge garments Monday to Friday.
It would seem that people are making these items that way with that material simply because it is fashionable to do so. [See post on Wambui Kibue on her views where fashion in Kenya has become fashionable.]There doesn’t seem to be any significant difference or tangible progression being made in the industry, Kenyans who are wearing these garments are few and far between and there is no real concrete trend for a particular season (fashion seasons is a topic for another day). Trends are not made by producing the same thing over and over in different shades.
Essentially, this is a challenge to designers. Distinguish yourself and create create create. This is also to encourage designers to step out of their comfort zones (i.e Ankara/Kitenge everything) and be adventurous in their designs. If you are committed to use only Ankara/Kitenge, then create beyond the usual and provide something truly trendsetting. In using common materials, uncommon designs will truly speak out. It’s about creating beyond the norm. Taking a risk will truly distinguish your brand from another and therefore grow your brand. As a consumer, we will also not fall prey to boredom. [See post on Mvoo the Jeweller on stepping things out]
This is not to discount those few designers out there who are really trendsetting and pushing their way through the Ankara/Kitenge cloud and innovating with those materials. These designers are creating an identity in their brand distinguishable to them.
Again, the question remains. Are trends being made in Kenya?
Find out more as we delve deeper on this issue and look into possible solutions tomorrow in “Trends in Kenya, or the lack thereof [PART 2].”