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Four Kenyans Who Rose From Mitumba Traders To Celebrity Fashion Designers

  • The fast-moving world of fashion has for a long time been a lucrative industry, with trends emerging all year round, and consumers breaking the bank just to get a hold of the hottest pieces of the season.

    It is therefore important to note that the designers behind the pieces often put in tremendous effort to bring the creations to life, from the shape, the fabric to the intricate tailoring that brings out the uniqueness of the outfit.

    Four Kenyans, in particular, were introduced to fashion in the thrift market, otherwise known as Mitumba, where they found their niche leading them to be fashion powerhouses locally and internationally.

    A file image of models on a runway

    A file image of models on a runway

    The Standard

    Filbert Mkwiche

    The Daystar University alumni’s interest in fashion design was predictable as the trained pilot and international relations officer ditched his career before it even took off, when his parents noted the gift in their son.

    His exquisite taste in fashion had his campus classmates always inquiring how he managed to pull off the looks that he donned to the lecture halls. He then identified a gap in the market and began sourcing for pieces in thrift markets.

    “When people started noticing my sense of style, I started buying thrifted clothes and sell them in school,” he stated in an interview with a local TV channel.

    The sudden surge in sales led to him to start sourcing for tailors, fabrics and familiarized himself with designers who offered him insight on how to begin the trade.

    The rise to the celebrity status was not one without challenges, as the lack of capital to set up shop hindered him from achieving his goals.

    “I did not have a store to refer my clients to, sometimes I used to carry out measurements in washrooms, ” he recounted.

    His journey has led him to design for notable celebrities such as actress Jacqueline Nyaminde, radio personality Kamene Goro and musician Judith Nyambura (Avril) in the country. He also holds monthly events where he brings together local designers and clients to showcase their work.

    Some of Mkwiche's designs on actress Jacqueline Nyaminde(left), radio personality Kamene Goro(middle) and musician Judith 'Avril' Nyambura(right)

    Some of Mkwiche’s designs on actress Jacqueline Nyaminde(left), radio personality Kamene Goro(middle) and musician Judith ‘Avril’ Nyambura(right)

    Instagram

    Fintan Designs

    Nancie Mwai

    Nancie Mwai is an entrepreneur cum fashion designer who started out selling thrift clothes with her friend online during her campus days after people around her noticed her unique sense of style.

    The United States International University (USIU) alumni started a fashion blog that peaked online and decided to venture into fashion fully through the sale of mitumba clothes.

    “We went to Gikomba early one morning, armed with Kshs2,000, and got pieces that sold out within the first day, that day we got Kshs14,000,” she stated in an interview in a fashion event.

    This led her to venture into YouTube, which gave her a platform to be a fashion influencer, through which she shared content on how to style different types of outfits for different occasions.

    It was then that her subscribers started asking how they would get the pieces she donned in her videos. This posed a challenge for her as she felt the need to create more of what she was wearing.

    According to Mwai, this birthed her fashion store, New Level, which she has nurtured, producing quality pieces that are donned by celebrities in Kenya.

    Nancie Mwai models some of the pieces from her New Level brand alongside social media influencers Patricia Kihoro and Sharon Mundia in New Level apparel(right)

    Nancie Mwai models some of the pieces from her New Level brand alongside social media influencers Patricia Kihoro and Sharon Mundia in New Level apparel(right)

    Instagram

    Nancie Mwai

    Zeddy Loky

    Zedekiah Lokole alias Zeddy Loky is a big name in New York. He owns a luxury brand, which is known for designs worn by celebrities such as Jay-Z, NBA star Carmelo Anthony, and actress Lupita Nyong’o.

    The Kenyan-born and raised designer had his first encounter with fashion in Eldoret, where he developed a liking from his mother’s friends who sold second-hand clothes around his home area and started selling to his friends when he was in class six.

    He then moved to Nairobi where he learned to tailor, and his unique designs landed him an internship in New York with fashion mogul, Alexander Nash.

    Nash offered him a job in his company, which he used to gain experience in the international fashion scene, leading him to participate in New York Fashion Week for several years.

    After this exposure, he hit the ground running, venturing out on his own. He established his own fashion house in 2013, which he named Narok NYC, paying homage to his country in his brand.

    A file image of Loky's Narok NYC brand pieces worn by New York model Jeremy Meeks(left) and Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong'o(right)

    A file image of Loky’s Narok NYC brand pieces worn by New York model Jeremy Meeks(left) and Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong’o(right)

    File

    Sunny Dolat

    Sunny Dolat is a fashion powerhouse who started his journey in the Gikomba market. He would rummage through piles of second-hand clothes in search of unique pieces to wear for fashion projects.

    His love for fashion evolved after working on a project as a fashion design stylist where he dressed models in his own pieces, to which he received an overwhelming response about his mastery of the art.

    After joining forces with his friend, Jim Chuchu, they started Nest Collective and organized a number of fashion shows in Kenya, showcasing their beautiful pieces over the years. This propelled him to to the guru status in the industry.

    The gifted designer spoke at the Design Indaba 2020 in Capetown, which is the continent’s biggest design conference, handing him international recognition.

    Sunny has curated wardrobes for movies and TV series as well as various design shows and museum exhibitions across the world.

    A file image of Dolat's pieces donned by models

    A file image of Dolat’s pieces donned by models

    File

    CNN

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