One might think that hair and clothing fashion, is a no-brainer match made in heaven. But to be quite honest, hair designed for the runway has been the missing link in pushing the Kenyan fashion presentation further into the international stratosphere. We’ve had Kenyan fashion designers pushing the envelope for over 30 years but hair has not managed to keep up. All is not lost, since that was the focus at the Darling Runway Kenya event that took place over two days at the Two Rivers Mall, Nairobi. The event brought together Kenya’s top fashion and hair enthusiasts.
The Darling hair brand has over the years stood for beauty and is an enabler for every African woman to transform the way she looks. Their hair brands are popular with both salons and stylists because they are trendy & versatile. Darling has also enjoyed market leadership and has been consistently ranked as a Superbrand in their 3rd (2014-2015), 4th (2015-2016) and 5th (2017-2018) editions.
When asked why Darling was venturing into the fashion world, Victoria Kieti Chesire, the Head of Marketing, Dry Hair, Godrej Kenya, shared, “Darling was understanding the art of making hair but was not connecting emotionally with the consumers. After rigorous research, we found out that the average woman does not only think of her outfit but her entire look.”
THE DARLING RUNWAY HAIRNOMICS WORKSHOP
Day one, of the two-day program, had panel discussions & workshops. Carol Odero (Managing Editor Couture Africa Magazine) moderated the panel discussing Hairnomics. The guests were hair industry representatives from Maureen Murunga (Owner, Amadiva Beauty), Muli Musyoka (Owner, Hairhub & Afrohair Awards brands), Wambui JL (Creator, Hairpolitan Lifestyle) to Joanne Mathenge (Owner, Waves & Lengths Salon, Ruaka).
The key take out of the discussion was that in as much as there has been the rise of Naturalistas who take care of their own hair, there is still need for a 50-50 partnership with Stylists. As it stands right now Naturalistas don’t trust stylists to fully understand hair and the price points are too high. Meanwhile, it was noted that stylists could be feeling intimidated by the amount of knowledge the DIY natural ladies have. Stylists were challenged to get in step with the natural hair movement, learn as much as they can about it and become the experts in that space.
Other workshop topics of the day were The African Renaissance by VAT and The Business of Fashion hosted by Couture Africa Magazine.
COUTURE AFRICA MAGAZINE’S EVENING FIRESIDE CHAT
The evening activities moved to the Sankara Hotel in Westlands, for an invite-only event. It started with a fireside chat with the industry greats across the fashion and tech industry. Olive Gachara, Editor in Chief – Couture Africa Magazine, hosted a panel made up of Akinyi Odongo, Wandia Gichuru (Vivo Activewear), Charles Murito (Country Head Google Kenya) Deepa Dosaja, Victoria Kieti Chesire (Head of Marketing, Dry Hair, Godrej Kenya) and Thula Sindi (SA).
Akinyi Odongo shared how her latest project dubbed Fashion Agenda Africa (FAA) came to be. A few years ago, she started a Whatsapp group to communicate with all those who sought her mentorship. Last year, she decided to take the forum seriously and by asking for basic requirements, such as business registration number and an email address, instantly the group whittled from 100+ to 25. Ten FAA members were chosen to showcase a 6-piece collection on the runway as well as create a pop-up store within the Two Rivers Mall’s corridors.
Wandia Gichuru shared how Vivo Activewear aims to launch a design every week, ensuring that designs within the store are trendy and relevant. On the flip side, Deepa Dosaja introduced to the discussion the concept of slow fashion, which entails repurposing and showcasing a piece more than once. It was great to know that there are both fast and slow moving business model options for up & coming designers.
The rest of the discussion was insightful for business in general. Thula Sindi talked passionately about the struggles of deciding on and running online vs. brick & mortar retail spaces. His take was that while online gave you hard analytical data, a retail space gave you more of a connection to, and an understanding of the consumer. He was also emphatic about how lucky Kenyans were with the popularity of mobile money that, in his opinion, would make a business run efficiently.
“Do what you love to do, let technology do the rest,” Charles Murito, Country Manager Google in Kenya, quipped; as he challenged the audience members to fully understand how tech can be leveraged for business. “Understand your core business, then think how effectively you can use tech to boost that core business,” he advised.
Sheena Frida C. brought the session to a close by speaking passionately about creating a platform where the players in the fashion industry had one voice. She requested that all industry players present support and come onboard the initiative. Sheena is the founder of the Strategic Fashion Development Consortium and the Kenyan representative for the Commonwealth Fashion Council.
DARLING HAIR INSTALLATION
Once the fireside chat ended, guests were ushered upstairs to view a one of a kind hair installation display by beautiful well-coiffured models. The rest of the evening involved loads of networking, good food and a flow of drinks.
“Hair cannot stand alone.” Victoria Kieti Chesire, Head of Marketing Dry Hair, Darling Kenya.”
It was great to be around ladies such as Diana Nekoye and Bidanya Barasa as they exchanged notes on the modeling industry then and now. Also in the room were international fashion designers such as Anyango Mpinga and film industry representatives such as Mwaniki Mageria of Riverwood.
A FASHIONISTAS DAY OUT
The next day was to be spent at the Two Rivers Mall with a fashion-packed program of activities. Fashion Agenda Africa’s 10 up & coming designers hit the runway first. The collective was made up of, Igulsun Leather by Gulsun Ahmed, PamOloo by Pam Oloo, Frika Designs by Fridah Ngugi, TrendyB Fashion House by Nakhulo Khaimia, Kidosho Apparel by Liz Kitua, Zanta Adeyde by Anyango Adeyde, Mambo Pambo by Kawira Mirero, Ellen by Hellen A. Tolbert, Tafari by Valerie Mwango and Lulu Creations by Lina Comley.
Guests were treated to different runway venues across the humongous Two Rivers Mall, which meant lots of running up and down. The fashion industries greats were in full attendance with Monica Kanari, Mille Collines and Kiko Romeo staging their beautiful pieces. The audience’s showstoppers were Akinyi Odongo’s 30-piece outfit showcase and Deepa Dosaja’s world-class runway presentation of her conscious fashion outfits. Finally, to cap the two-day extravaganza off was Thula Sindi, from South Africa.
The Darling team of stylist brought their A-Game and showcased hair that was complementary to the awesome pieces on the runway. “The Darling Runway Kenya was a great presentation of Kenyan designers. The showcase offering a platform to upcoming designers particularly impressed me. I also loved that the hair for the show was not just an accompaniment to the gorgeous designs but held it’s own space and created a narrative around hair. Corrine and Donghie and their teams truly outdid themselves,” summarized Wachu Wanjaria, Co-Founder Kurlly Diaries.
News of the new soft kinky hair spread like wildfire among the Naturalistas present. The soon to be launched piece is soft to touch, bouncing, versatile and has great potential in terms of styling especially for those who love their hair in crotchet hairstyles. We’re looking forward to bringing you more on the hairpiece right here, so keep it locked.
NATURALISTAS IN ATTENDANCE
The natural hair community was front and center during the whole showcase. Nakhulo Khaimia, Valerie Mwango, Kawira Mwirero and Anyango Adeyde were showed their pieces under the FAA upcoming designers umbrella.
“I am glad to be under the mentorship of Akinyi Odongo the creator of Fashion Agenda Africa. The planning process involved sleepless nights from creation of a mood board of the designs to actualization. We had to go through a thorough scrutiny by Akinyi to ensure what is presented is of quality in terms of choice of fabrics, design, and finishing. Finally, the team at Couture Africa and Ajuma Modeling Agency did a superb job by ensuring pre-planning and runway runs smoothly,” shared Nakhulo Khaimia, Creative Director TrendyB Fashion House.
The naturals support team was made up of Beth Ikiara, Carol Tichie (Apparel & Accessories Kenya), Chepkemboi Mang’ira (Own Your Culture), Jeri Muchura (Photos by Jeri) Nyasuba Lando Lando (Co-Founder – Nurtured Knotts), Sheikha Yumen ( Sheikha Butters), and Wachu Wanjaria (Kurly Diaries).
I asked Wachu Wanjaria, what the natural hair community could learn from such an event. She said, “The biggest lesson for the natural hair community is to dream big!! There is space and for well-curated large-scale events. In addition, the fashion scene has come of age and while the natural hair community is still growing we can grow faster from taking cues from the fashion design world including but not limited to; keeping up with global trends, collaborating with each other and learning from the successes of the fashion space in Kenya.”
The event was sponsored by not only Darling Kenya. Sankara Hotel, Homeboyz, Linton’s Beauty World, Black Up, FA254 and last but not least Couture Africa were also on board. It is clear that Darling Kenya aims to continue being a strong & formidable player in the Kenyan hair market. We should look forward to more events and activities that shall build a stronger brand presence in the minds of consumers.
About Darling Kenya:
Darling is the leading manufacturer of hair extensions in East Africa. It is the Go-To brand for trendy and fashionable hairstyles in Weaves, Braids & Crochet. Darling which is under Godrej Consumer Products Limited(GCPL), also houses signature hair brands like MegaGrowth & TCB.
About COUTURE Africa Magazine:
As East Africa’s Pioneer Fashion Magazine, COUTURE Africa seeks to not only celebrate African Fashion but bring global fashion and beauty trends into the African market in a relatable and easily translatable way to our readers. It is because of this that COUTURE Africa has over the years become a voice for the modern woman in Africa. The woman who understands quality appreciates the value and is constantly seeking to look and feel her best on a daily basis. COUTURE Africa magazine is indeed the go-to read for today’s woman.
About Ajuma Ltd:
AJUMA Ltd [formerly City Models Africa] is a leading casting and model agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Owned and operated by international supermodel Ajuma Nasanyana, the agency also provides graphic design, branding, promotional materials and audio-visual production services.