“As a good designer you have to be able to constantly recreate whilst still staying true to your brand.”
To begin with, its important to let people know what a joy Wambui Kibue is. A ball of laughs and jokes, she clearly manages to work hard and enjoy life but it does not detract from her professionalism. She works meticulously, timeously and keeps honest communication at all times. Angelsmile House of Design derives from her nickname “Angel”, her “happy go lucky attitude” and her clothes that make people smile. It is in those moments when people are so excited and their confidence is boosted that makes her keep doing what she does.
For her, there was no other career option. She would follow her mom walking in her heels (that wouldn’t fit) and trying to wear her clothes (which wouldn’t fit either) only to finally have the opportunity to alter them and she couldn’t find them. From school, she picked classes that would help with fashion such as home science and art. Once she finished, she did a diploma at Buru Buru Institute of Fine Art (BIFA).
Angelsmile House of Design is about confidence, achievers, people who know who they are, quality (which is very important for her), glamour and dazzling wear. She has been doing this from 2005 but seriously since 2010. From 2005, she was simultaneously working for Monica Kanari and studying at Daystar University in Nairobi (which she left to pursue her career).
Angelsmile House of Design has three lines: custom made, ready-to-wear and couture. Couture is bridal gowns and ready-to-wear are those you can buy off the rack but her major involvement is custom made. Custom made entails meeting with the client to discuss what they are looking for, taking measurements, fitting and collection. Two or three months ago, Angelsmile had a ready-to-wear collection for winter on jackets.
Angelsmile has had three ready-to-wear collections so far. When she started, Wambui Kibue intended it to be more consistent and affordable. “Understanding the Kenyan market makes ready-to-wear tricky.” The bridal collection is specifically to show the varied new possibilities which Kenyans are still quite hesitant to try. “Why wouldn’t people want something custom made for their wedding”, she exclaimed. Citing gowns from Vera Wang and Pronovious Barcelona whose designs are amazing and unconventional, Wambui Kibue wants her gowns to be very detail oriented and bedazzled. She hasn’t really started doing what she really wants to do so we will just have to wait to be wowed some more.
Interestingly enough, she has no favorite anything. Truly. No favorite color, no favorite food, no favorite anything because she gets bored so easily. There is always that question hanging over her head “what next?” For example, she exclaimed shock in only planning to have one wedding dress for the whole day, “why not three?” Even when designing for herself, she gets bored with a dress and moves on to the next.
She may not have favorites but she has her “funnest” moments. She was excited to have the Ajuma dress on the cover stating that it was a “pretty cool way to start the year!” [Pictured below: courtesy of www.angelsmilehouseofdesign.com]
The Designers who inspire her stem from Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Victoria Beckham, Marchesa, Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and Chanel to name a few. Not only do designers inspire her, she states that inspiration comes from the “things you see and feel. Dressing is a reflection of who you are.” It’s a matter of trying to tap into someone’s mentality to get something stylish, chic and comfortable for them.
Inspiration comes from the “things you see and feel. Dressing is a reflection of who you are”
In Kenya, she explained, people tend to buy clothes on a need basis. There is therefore a limitation in the amount of experimenting taking place in fashion. “The variety of fabric availability has changed in the past year.”
With regard to the Kenyan Fashion Industry, she spoke of the major change from just buying on a need basis to an appreciation of beautiful things, therefore investing more on their wardrobes. Initially, she was only called for weddings but progressively people began to ask for more. “People have become more aware. Understanding that fashion can contribute hugely to a country’s GDP.” She further stated that there is a need to really understand what fashion is all about, fashion weeks (see Article on Fashion Weeks in Kenya) which she described a merely entertainment in Kenya, and the need to know about other industries.
“When people say, ‘that fashion out there doesn’t affect us’ is a misconception completely. Trends are derived from Designers in Fashion Weeks with a trickle down effect. So regardless of whether you are aware of it or not, what you wear stems from out there.”
She also cited how there seems to be a complete disconnect with the young upcoming fashion professionals who don’t truly understand the industry. She further explained that “a fashion house, like House of Deréon from Beyonce and Victoria Beckham for example, hire professional designers to create the line and produce something in line with their brand.”
In Kenya, being a designer without school is difficult as you would not know how to cut fabric correctly and implement other basics in fashion. There seems to be people interested in the lifestyle and not the real work behind it. “Its not as glamorous as people make it out to be.” Because it is a growing industry, she explains that it is hard to make your name and without the passion behind it, it won’t work. “There needs to be passion at the epicenter of a designer’s motivation, doing it for the right reasons”, which Wambui Kibue doubts most people have. She remarked that nowadays “fashion is in fashion” whereas 4 years what was in fashion was being a DJ. In slight frustration, she exclaims that “no one is taking the time to understand what is blogging, what is fashion design, what role am I going to play in the industry? And so on.”
She advises that, as the industry is growing, there is a need for education about the industry and people who know what they are doing. The people who understand it over time will shine through those who are in fashion because it is in fashion. It is the way products are cut and finished that will determine true quality.
For Angelsmile House of Design, you can expect for bridesmaids dresses from 9,000 Kenya Shillings and for wedding dresses 38,000 Kenya Shillings depending on the material and cut and other factors. See below pieces from her collection [Courtesy of Wambui Kibue: Angelsmile House of Design].
“Do it for the right reasons.” She further added, “building a business from a passion is brutal.” When you start a business, she explains, you are everything in that business and at the same time you need to be creative. It’s a balancing exercise really. She further advised that (1) let it be a passion and not about a fad; (2) it will take time (3) back it up by school and (4) be ready to work hard.