Hand-picked 20 African designers – Kenya’s brightest rising stars – have been identified as the ones to watch in Nairobi’s ever-expanding creative scene as part of this new initiative, held in cooperation with the British Council. The project, dubbed Creative DNA 2.0, includes a three-month business incubation program for a group of carefully selected designers across clothes, footwear, and accessories, with the goal of bringing African fashion to the forefront.
The final group of creatives is made up of 12 female and eight male designers, all from different geographical locations ranging from Nairobi to Kakuma Refugee Camp. They were hand-picked from a pool of 100 creative fashion talents from across the country. Sustainable accessories business Luxaltra, unisex label Tug, ethically created jeweller Tiger Tail Twister, and statement knitwear brand Olisa Kenya are among the designers picked, focusing on developing talents across all sectors, from couture and fine jewelry to streetwear.
Developed in collaboration with FAFA (Festival of African Fashion and Arts) Kenya and award-winning international consultancy and platform Fashion Scout – known for hosting some of the most exciting showcases during London Fashion Week – will include a business bootcamp led by experts from Kenya and the UK (including Fashion Scout founders Martyn and Biljana Roberts and fashion designer Christine-Ann McCreath) as well as on-the-ground training. The designers will be given a month-long pop-up shop in the heart of Nairobi as part of the initiative, which will help with sales and brand growth. Above all, the project aspires to work with African designers and their communities to promote innovation and creativity.
Maganga Mwagogo, a prominent photographer, and Dwayne Kenzie, a stylist, collaborated on three special photoshoots as part of the program, each of which examined what personal identity and independence mean for African designers in the post-Covid age. The first looks at how fashion can be used to communicate, the second celebrates Nairobi’s vibrancy through its young skate culture, and the third offers a more polished view of the city, emphasizing Nairobi’s sophisticated glamour.
“Fashion is a liberating form of self-expression, and Dwayne and I set out to explore and celebrate this. The styling and make-up are striking, empowering the models, and enabling them to truly stand out from the crowds. They show that people can get out of their comfort zones and experiment” Maganga explains.
Fashion can be a viable career choice for young, aspiring designers in Kenya, as demonstrated by Creative DNA 2.0. It allows them to perceive the horizon of possibilities before we do. We’re already two steps behind them.The effort builds on the very successful Creative DNA 1.0 program, which saw the African designers selected become essential members of Kenya’s creative economies and networks beginning in 2020. As a result of participating in the project’s business acceleration seminars and training, many of the designers saw significant company growth and international media recognition, and this year’s batch expects even more of it.
TUG is an androgynous fashion label founded in 2019 with the goal of introducing inclusivity, variety, and originality to the local fashion scene. TUG is proud of its diverse product and service offerings, which include Ready-To-Wear, accessories, and Made-To-Measure services. TUG’s extensive product line continues to expand as a result of research and development projects, as well as founder Collins Karanja’s vast knowledge and experience gathered from over ten years in the fashion industry.
Luxaltra made its debut in 2018, focusing on high-end fashion and great craftsmanship. Luxaltra’s designs attempt to transcend seasonal and runway fads by combining modest elegance with contemporary functionality. The Luxaltra team prioritizes fair working conditions in order to assist artisans in rising out of poverty and sustaining themselves and their communities. Luxaltra donates at least ten percent of its proceeds to local Kenyan education and women’s development projects.
Start-up clothing company 1V1 Garments sells distinctive clothing items while providing customers with customizing options in an effort to serve a broad customer base. The company sells eco-friendly clothing for both men and women that is created and developed. In addition to personalized designs that meet its customers’ unique demands, 1V1 Garments places a strong emphasis on colors, fits, and styles.
Tiger Tail Twister
Tiger Tail Twister crafts handmade, responsibly made jewelry that is influenced by African style and culture. The majority of Tiger Tail Twister sculptures are recreations of classic historical themes taken from commonplace household goods, spiritual symbols, and ornamentation items.
The company’s creator, Vicki Maimba, is a multifaceted artist who is fascinated by culture, environment, and how it all relates to the choices that designers make.
As a youthful label with Kibera as its hub of innovation, ideas, and the arts, BOGUK is a design approach that embodies Kenyan culture, creativity, fun, and craftsmanship. In order to make high-quality goods, generate employment possibilities, and take advantage of the resources available in their particular region, BOGUK collaborates with local tailors and craftspeople. The company produces meticulously constructed, imaginative, entertaining, practical, and stylish silhouettes for both everyday use and special occasions. The BOGUK portfolio consists of the BOGUK Made to Measure (Business and Style) and BOGUK Made to Wear (Ready to Wear) lines.
Mariam Couture is a sustainable fashion company that employs and empowers both men and women. It was started in July 2019. Both in its goods and the quality of life it seeks to give, the brand is firmly committed to excellence and equality. Mariam Couture invests in, educates, and teaches staff members while paying fair salaries, enhancing their quality of life and fostering a relaxing work atmosphere in their solar-powered workplace. With high-quality, limited-edition designs that promote the livelihood of regional craftspeople, the brand uplifts mindful customers.
Iliki Resort Wear
Iliki is a company that specializes in resort wear, purposefully producing timeless and exclusive resort wear pieces for the contemporary lady. In keeping with the slow fashion movement, the company places a strong emphasis on stylistic adaptability.
The Swahili cultural and architectural styles, the Kenyan safari, and our ambition to explore the limits of our creative capacity are all sources of inspiration for all of its works. The Nairobi, Kenya-based Iliki Resort Wear company offers ladies all around the world the Iliki experience.
Nairobi Apparel District
Nairobi Apparel District is a Kenyan streetwear brand that was established by artist, designer, and creative director Junior Orina in response to the need for environmental action included in fashion in order to battle hazardous waste produced by the fast fashion industry. For its designs, Nairobi Apparel District aims to upcycle, recycle, and employ sustainable materials. The designs come in both ready-made and customized options.
A dynamic company, Vazi Maridadi creates garments on demand for all sizes and genders for all events. By offering real-time feedback and meeting their wants, it aims to advance the clients’ style. Venesa Julia, a self-taught tailor, stylist, designer, fashion content developer, and occasional model, launched Vazi Maridadi. She crafts anything from crocheted items to shoes and beaded items.
Muni Designs is a fashion platform that was established in 2020 as an online store of beauty and innovation for everyone who is willing to test their sense of style. The love and preservation of nature are at the heart of it. Muni Designs embraces the culture, works to make customers feel good about themselves, and infuses aesthetic enjoyment in a distinctive way into the brand.
By building a conceptual environment at the nexus of fashion, digital art, and technology, Peni Mbili is a design company whose mission is to generate a vivid sense of what it means to be young in this specific moment and place. Anthony and Muthama Muisyo, a creative and business team with a variety of talents who take pleasure in the complexities of the creative process, formed Peni Mbili.
Kenyan clothing company Wangari Mathenge represents and encourages a free-spirited clientele who dress for no one but themselves. The company experiments with unconventional cuts and plays with volume to disassemble clothing and turn it into a Wangari Mathenge craft. Kimonos, Kaftans, and modern African ponchos are Wangari Mathenge’s specialty.
With a wide selection of products including leather goods, footwear, smart wear, and eyewear, At Odds is a Kenyan fashion brand that aims to become a major global African fashion house. In order to stand out from the crowd and indulge in different fashion tastes, At Odds aims to create a space. At Odds concentrates on supplying clothing with elegant cuts and premium materials. The brand’s distinctive and useful clothing aims to elevate those who choose to stand out in their appearance. Among the staple items at Odds, a number of jackets have been described as “functional, colorful, distinctive, and androgynous.”
Using classic, entertaining, statement pieces, the knitwear design company Olisa Kenya expresses and embraces current African culture and lifestyle. The company delivers unmatched artistic expression and superb workmanship while presenting a novel vision of what an ordinary, straightforward wardrobe might be.
Sianna Textile Prints
Tarsianna Nkuranga started the SIANNA textile design brand. SIANNA began in Kigali, Rwanda, but developed as a brand in Nairobi, Kenya. To provide a variety of goods, SIANNA creates prints for textiles. All of the prints were influenced by African countries’ cultures and customs. They all have a unique tale to share.
By combining precise tailoring with a steadfast adherence to minimalism, Nairobi-based streetwear brand Metamorphisized attempts to imitate the accumulative elements of one’s personal wardrobe. Every new style that is introduced in a collection is combined with classic items that have been around for a while, highlighting Kenyan culture with each piece’s accessible details. The end result is a gender-neutral wardrobe in the making that strikes the perfect mix between practical items for daily life and street smart clothing.
Oqkra & Bour
Oqkra & Bour (Soul & Stone), a handcrafted afro-modern luxury jewelry brand from Kenya, crafts unique works of wearable art out of mosaic tile glass, olive wood, and locally and ethically mined gemstones. The company employs materials like fine silver to make classic items and places a high importance on diversity and sustainability. The designs are influenced by current African culture and architecture, which honors regional artisanship that is passed down via apprenticeship. We are developing into a major worldwide brand.
Kolakisa is a fashion brand that specializes in creating both men’s and women’s clothing, employing cotton and kitenge to create excellent garments that are custom-made for a wide range of customers. When Kolakisa collaborates with neighborhood tailors, it gives back to the neighborhood by educating vulnerable migrants and high school dropouts who use the knowledge they gain to become financially independent.
The 2014 launch of the fashion label Nikech Amor was motivated by the founder’s enthusiasm for using kitenge and uzi (thread) in her creations. The name Nikech Amor (“happy”) refers to the founder’s strong emphasis on expressing emotions via design. Nikech Amor takes great delight in emphasizing the importance that emotions play in fashion via the designers’ eyes as well as through the production process, fabric, color, texture, and design and uses the hashtag #fashionismyvoice to do so.
Diro Jewellers and Enterprises
Kenyan fashion company DIRO is located in Kibera and creates Afro-contemporary designs using a variety of carefully chosen, easily accessible materials including brass, horns, and bones. In keeping with the brand’s mission to lessen gender disparity, 75% of its processes are owned by women. On a modest scale, DIRO has exported goods to a number of nations, including the USA, Switzerland, Holland, Botswana, Dubai, and the UK. The company is notable for having taken home the Best Costume/Wardrobe prize at the 2018 Machakos Film Festival Awards for the short film “Wakamba Forever.”