Maria Nyambura, the designer behind Zambarau is a lover of life (in a hippie kind of way) a tree hugger and a lover of beauty finding it everywhere she can around her. A foodie, an artist and an architectural enthusiast she is also presently finishing her studies in nutrition. She also works on attachment at Kenyatta Hospital and volunteer’s with Action Foundation. If you sitting there going “Gosh! She does a lot of things!”. That! she does and well. Her designs are a reflection of her striving for perfection and an eye for detail in all she does.
Nutritionist, architect, artist, humanitarian, undercover poet and designer says this about her designs: “I tend to ensure that all my pieces reflect who I am”. Incredibly diverse in terms of style, color, material and structure she is able to cater for all tastes. Zambarau Accessories in one sentence is defined as “encompassing the duality of beauty and style”. Style and beauty, although different component in themselves, she strives to blend them together. “Jewelry is beautiful but it wont necessary appeal to everyone – beauty is subjective.” Her designs are made for those who love jewelry and for a spectrum of tastes and style. Her pieces are also made to cater for different occasions: work or a night out leaving your style to finish the look.
Her designing journey started with clothes. As time went by, it gravitated to painting and sketching, up until high school. It was in high school that her fashion journey was truly solidified. Starting her jewelry line by taking a loan from her mother to purchase beads and other materials, she knew that moment her relationship with jewelry was not going to end. She has been doing it for three years now saying that “the more [she] did it… the more [she] saw the need to take it seriously.”
Zambarau, is Kiswahili for purple, because it is a color of balance, which represents who she is and what she strives for in her designs and in her life. Most of her pieces started off symmetrical, although she is starting to move away from it, the seeking of perfection and symmetry in her jewelry is a reflection of who she is.
Most of her pieces are made from a sudden inspiration therefore making it very difficult to quantify and quality them into a strict collection. In some instances, she might start her idea with a particular color or idea but when looking out for beads she sometimes finds something more amazing and runs with it. She describes it as “quite a whimsical experience.” Putting a collection strictly makes her feel restricted and hampers her creativity and that is why she does not hold herself down to that school of thought. She does have collections on occasion for particular events or a season but mostly goes with the flow.
Mostly from observation, nature, art or whatever she sees that sparks her mind leading her to create beautiful pieces. See Isaac Mizrahi on observation, inspiration and creativity.
Her goal is to have her brand as a household name in Kenya first because it is home. Kenya is at a point when Kenyans are appreciating more who they are and where they are from. She tells us that “for people to appreciate your brand at home is a big deal – a revolution of sorts.” The fashion revolution in Kenya, as she dubs it, revolves around self-love especially in the youth.
“There was a time, in the 90s, when people associated more with American culture. It extended to people’s lives, how they talked, fashion and art. Creating local genres in music are all party to this revolution. People are more interested as a result to attend local events and wearing clothes supporting fashion and music because they love it.”
There is definitely a shift. She noted that people are willing to invest in our local designers and that will to invest in something local is inspiring. Her analysis on the industry is that it is new and therefore providing room for growth. Despite this room, she notes that there is big chunk of people who are still relying on set patterns and playing it safe in terms of fashion.
“Creativity wont sell always…but if you want to make a statement, go for it! Don’t inhibit yourself in terms of creativity.”
For some designers, there are also limited by financial constraints (buying materials and labour), which is one of the major challenges in the fashion industry in her opinion. She has also been affected in this regard by virtue of her difficulty in finding raw materials. She uses her connections from other parts of the world to ship them in – which is time limiting. The bead market in Kenya, in her experience, is also monopolized to the extent that it is not a saturated market, which means that the price tag fluctuates.
All in all, her advice to upcoming jewelry designers is to“create a brand. You have to see it, have a vision, want it and go for it. Build a brand and don’t give up.” She has experienced her own challenges in her journey such as having people go from “I like’ to “I want to buy.” “It’s a gradual process” she says and with time whatever you set your mind to will come to pass. “Kenyans need to warm up to something before they jump right in”, she tells us, so time will tell and patience and persistence are key tools.
She cited two of her favorite quotes that she holds on to:
“Do it now or forever wish you had”
“Life’s a garden…dig it!”
She will be releasing her new collection in early December, which will feature architectural and industrial blend of jewelry. We’ll be looking our for this!
Here are some of her pieces for you to marvel on. For more Zambarau Accessories see here.
For more on ZambarauAccessories check out her website here.