In the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, a transformational fashion event is on the horizon, one that promises to challenge the very essence of the industry. Kibera Fashion Week, scheduled for October 14, 2023, is not just another typical fashion extravaganza; it’s a profound narrative of sustainability, community empowerment, and a refreshing perspective on the art of fashion.
Kibera: More Than Meets the Eye
Often depicted as a place of despair in need of help, Kibera is far from a one-dimensional story. It’s a bustling metropolis, a cradle of creativity, constantly evolving and innovating. It’s within this vibrant community that Kibera Fashion Week finds its roots, challenging the neo-colonial realities of the fashion industry.
The organizers of the Kibera Fashion Week, expressed their vision, “Kibera Fashion Week envisions a future where fashion transcends borders and becomes a unifying force for positive change. It aims to create a global fashion ecosystem that celebrates diversity, empowers local talent, and challenges the conventional norms of the fashion industry.”
With 11 designers set to grace the runway, Kibera Fashion Week stretches far beyond a one-night event. It is, in fact, a year-long program with a mission to fundamentally reshape the narratives and dynamics within the fashion world.
A Fashion Revolution with a Heart
The organizers of Kibera Fashion Week share a collective vision – to redefine how the world celebrates its heroes. In Kibera, they’ve found everyday heroes, individuals who’ve risen from the depths of unemployment, homelessness, and adversity. These heroes have not just overcome their challenges; they’ve become role models for the youth in their community.
Kibera Fashion Week breathes life into this vision, using the power of arts and creativity to challenge the notion that only certain professions are worthy of applause. It’s a platform where the legitimacy of artisanal work, tailoring, and craftsmanship is celebrated. These vocations provide not only sustainability but also hope, guiding the younger generation towards more meaningful pursuits.
The Impact of Kibera Fashion Week on the Local Community
Since its inaugural show in November 2022, Kibera Fashion Week has left a significant impact on individuals and groups within the community. It’s not just about fashion; it’s about transformation and empowerment.
Emerging designers like Moom Jay Designs kicked off their journey at the November 2022 event. Today, they’ve evolved into established fashion brands, contributing substantially to the growth of the local fashion scene.
But it’s not just designers who’ve been touched by the magic of Kibera Fashion Week. The event has actively collaborated with local artisans and craftsmen, giving rise to a unique fashion experience that spans fashion accessories and garments. Victorious Crafts, talented jewelry designers from Kibera, now have a sustainable source of income and a means to preserve their traditional crafts and livelihoods.
The local models and performers have also thrived, gaining exposure and opportunities in the entertainment and modeling industries. Beyond the runway, the event’s various activities, including runway shows, exhibitions, and workshops, have had a positive economic ripple effect throughout Kibera. Local businesses, including food vendors and artisans, have experienced increased foot traffic during the event, translating into tangible economic benefits for the community.
Sustainability at the Heart of Kibera Fashion Week
Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Kibera Fashion Week; it’s a way of life. The event’s commitment to sustainability is evident in every facet of its planning and execution.
- Sustainable sourcing and fabric maximization: Designers are encouraged to champion sustainable, locally sourced materials for their collections, minimizing the carbon footprint associated with sourcing materials from distant locations. Textile waste is minimized through efficient patternmaking and the innovative reuse of materials.
- Ethical production: A strong emphasis is placed on ethical production practices, ensuring fair labor conditions and equitable wages for artisans and workers engaged in crafting fashion collections.
- Community engagement: Kibera Fashion Week forges vital connections with the local Kibera community through strategic partnerships with organizations and skilled artisans, fostering social inclusion and presenting valuable economic opportunities for community members.
- Education and awareness: The event serves as an educational hub, hosting workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions that encourage conversations on sustainability, inclusivity, and ethical fashion practices.
- Spotlight on local talent: Kibera Fashion Week passionately prioritizes local talent, spanning models, performers, and designers, nurturing the growth of the local fashion industry.
Designers: The Heartbeat of Kibera Fashion Week
Let’s hear from the designers themselves, each with a unique story and vision:
“I am passionate about transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. My journey is all about giving new life to thrifted garments and crafting them into beautiful designs that radiate uniqueness.”Millicent Adhiambo Oluoch, Simply Milly
“The brand saw opportunity in involving raw bones and horns as unique resources that could solve the lack of our region’s identity in designs and again using it as locally sourced raw materials to represent the region’s creations to the global platform.”Jack Nyawanga, Victorious Bone Craft
“The more my outfits are seen and appreciated, the more bamboo is known more in my country. Bamboo as a sustainable, resilient, and hardy grass is very beneficial in carbon sequestration which is an important process in cleaning the atmosphere.”Dan Otieno (Ottydann), The Bamboo Man
“Our brand creates employment for unemployed members of the Society.”Mary Akinyi, Emaryan Designs
“As creatives working together, we realized that there was a need to reflect on how the industry we were in impacted our environment.”Mariah Kwamboka, Bokka
“We wanted to create something unique that could represent different cultures in Africa globally and create job opportunities for youths living in Kibera.”Joseph Ganda, Bolla Footwear Designer
“We made a collective choice to join forces as partners and as a community, aiming to redefine how we celebrate and recognize our true heroes.”Beth Kariuki, Lina Yarn
The Beauty of Upcycling
Many designers at Kibera Fashion Week are embracing upcycling, a practice that breathes new life into old materials. Millicent Adhiambo Oluoch, founder of Simply Milly, is passionate about upcycling. She skillfully reimagines thrifted garments into fashionable pieces, minimizing waste and demonstrating the beauty of sustainability.
Unique Materials for Unique Designs
Jack Nyawanga, founder of Victorious Bone Craft, takes a different route with his brand. He uses raw bones, horns, and metal to create unique designs such as costumes and jewelry. He believes that using locally sourced materials can represent the region’s creativity on a global platform.
Fashion with a Positive Impact
Joseph Ganda, founder of Bolla Footwear Designer, saw an opportunity to create fashionable shoes while simultaneously reducing waste. His brand repurposes old clothes, used car tires, and waste materials from local tailors into distinctive, stylish footwear. Ganda’s goal is to create job opportunities for the youth living in Kibera.
Championing Sustainability in Fashion
Kibera Fashion Week isn’t just an event; it’s a movement aimed at transforming the fashion industry. It places a strong emphasis on sustainability, ethical production practices, and inclusivity. Through workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions, designers, participants, and attendees gain valuable insights into sustainable fashion practices.
By spotlighting local talent, fostering economic growth, and promoting social empowerment, Kibera Fashion Week challenges the status quo of the fashion industry. It sends a powerful message that fashion excellence and innovation can emerge from unexpected places.
A Vision for the Future
As Kibera Fashion Week approaches, these designers are not just focused on the runway. Their vision extends beyond the event itself. They aspire to expand the use of sustainable materials and practices, advocate for ethical production, and create job opportunities within their communities.
Together, they hope to change the way we view fashion and demonstrate that sustainability is not just a buzzword but a way of life. They encourage consumers to buy consciously, promote sustainable brands, and actively contribute to a cleaner, greener world.
Kibera Fashion Week is proof that fashion can be a force for good, a platform for change, and a symbol of hope. It’s an event that transcends traditional runway shows, inviting us all to be part of a movement towards a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry. As Beth Kariuki from Lina Yarn aptly puts it, “We only have one world to live in, let’s keep it clean and green for our next generation to come.”
So, mark your calendars for October 14, 2023, as Kibera Fashion Week promises to take you on a journey where sustainability meets style, and fashion becomes a catalyst for positive change.
The project is initiated by David Avido (Lookslike Avido / Avido Foundation) in collaboration with Goethe-Institut, Nairobi Design Week, Maasai Mbili and EUNIC Kenya. The project is funded as part of the European Spaces of Culture.
For more information, visit the website of Kibera Fashion Week.