Last Saturday(20th October 2012) marked the first ever Kitenge Festival which was held at the Village Market in the Gigiri area of Nairobi. The festival brought together lovers of African Culture, local fashion enthusiasts and designers in a full day of celebration of the African print Fabric- the Kitenge. The theme of the festival was ‘Bring the Drama’
And sure enough, those who attended did bring with them drama in their attire, music, food, the items that were on sale as well as in the pride of being African.
There were quite a number of unique items on sale and it was impressive to see the creativity around the Kitenge fabric. Apart from the usual clothing there were various accessories made out of Kitenge.
I had a chat with Grace Makosewe whose PR & Events Company, Nairobi VIP, organised the Festival.
Your company Nairobi VIP was the organiser of the just ended Kitenge Festival, how did you come up with an idea of such an event?
With the onslaught of the popularity of the Kitenge aka the Ankara fabric on the international fashion runways and seen worn by international celebrities e.g Solange Knowles and Michelle Obama, I believe it is time we celebrated the Kitenge fabric as part of our culture in East Africa, encourage and support young upcoming entrepreneurial fashion designers and artists. This is how the Kitenge Festival fashion based event idea was born. We are looking at hosting it on a regular basis. There is a possibility that we might host another one before the end of the year.
Is this the first of its kind?
www.NairobiVip.com hosts numerous fashion events all through the year e.g The Shoe Lounge, Fashion High Tea etc however this was the first Kitenge themed event and we are looking at having the second installment before the end of the year. We will post this information on our website www.NairobiVip.com in the next couple of weeks.
There seems to be a renewed appreciation for African attire, what is your take on this? Do you think that it took Louis Vuitton for the world and Kenyans to appreciate their own fabrics?
The international fashion runways have definitely influenced the rise in popularity of the Kitenge African fabric and even the Maasai Blanket. Seeing international superstars like Beyonce, Gwen Stefani and NAS wearing outfits made out of the Kitenge fabric has definitely added some “cool” or should we call it “Street cred” to the African print. As a result, young African fashion enthusiasts across the world have embraced the fabric and are wearing it in contemporary designs. They are wearing it as jackets and dresses, they are making shoes, bags and accessories. It doesn’t stop there, you will see furniture, soft furnishing and decor made using the Kitenge/Ankara fabric.
How frequently will the festival be held?
We are looking at looking at possibly having another Kitenge event in December. The Kitenge is IN!
There seems to be quite a number of designers specialising in Kitenge fabric and related accessories, however, most it seems, work from home and use the internet for their sale and marketing, what is your take on this?
We need to find a way of supporting young fashion entrepreneurs by buying and marketing their products. The reasons they work from home is because of lack of resources, avenue and platform to sell their wares. Fashion materials and fabric are quite expensive for a fashion entrepreneur who is starting off. Without these kinds of avenues to help them sell their wares, social media platforms are the easiest, cheapest, cost efficient and most effective ways that these young designer entrepreneurs can use to reach their target audience and off load their stock.
Kitenge has always been known as a ‘wedding attire’ for women in Kenya, do you see this trend changing to what we see in West African countries?
The Kitenge is no longer looked at as the older African village womans’ casual sarong. It has become a symbol of culture, status and even celebration. It has come of age and caught up with the fashion trends. The Kitenge/Ankara African print fabric is now associated with trendiness, contemporary African fashion culture and we believe we should celebrate it, especially in the East African region.
You are quite muti-talented, tell us briefly about the different careers you are in
You can summarize what I do in two words, Fashion and Entertainment. In Fashion, I am a fashion editor and wardrobe consultant.
Fashion seems to be your main love, how did you start?
Fashion is something that has always come naturally to me. It is something I have been interested in since I was a toddler sneaking into my mothers’ studio and playing with her sewing machine and learning how to knit from my grandmother. I have been involved in entertainment industry especially event promotions for many years. Fashion and entertainment are both, things that started off as a hobbies and now, what I do for a living. They both come very easily to me and don’t feel like a jobs at all; Hobbies that turned into business, and this is how I set up my PR, Marketing and Events company www.NairobiVip.com .
“ Find something that you love do, and you will never work a day in your life”
Tell us something we forgot to ask
You forgot to ask “How did you do it?” and my answer would be, “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Gods grace and support from some very amazing team of people that God sent my way“. I would also like to thank everyone who came out to the Kitenge Festival to show Nairobi Vip some support. You all looked absolutely fabulous! Thanks to the vendors who took part, the guests who came and most of all, thanks to the sponsors. Look out for the next Kitenge Festival which we promise you, will be bigger and better.
Anyone wanting to take part in future events should get in touch via email: info(at)Nairobivip(dot)com
Photos of the event can be viewed here