If you have not read Mia Mara creations Part 1 interview, kindly do. Here is Part 2
Let’s talk about money. Getting a “designed” dress is quiet expensive as opposed to buying ready-made how true is this and why if so?
I can say fashion is a design journey.
Kenya needs to get in manufacturing. It is not easy but we will learn as we go along.
Vivo have taught us it doesn’t have to be expensive. She made it practical and affordable. I like Kobi too, they will go very far. They are making their clothes very accessible. Theirs is very street wear, bearded art and not the typical print.
Money wise, I can do fashion for free, I don’t do it for money. But I am working on making sure my art pays me.
I have always focused on improving myself and my skill. By the time am charging someone, they are getting their money worth.
Do You Think The Reason Why Kenyans Are Not Buying More Locally Made Stuff Is Because They Are Expensive?
I think that is an excuse because majority of Kenyans don’t go to designers to make clothes they go to tailors. I think the problem is more quality and time management. Fitting and time management; those are the biggest complains I get. Not even cost. That is why I practiced my skill such that you will get your outfit on time and well made.
For the tailors I would like, to advise them to learn more skill and take up work that they can do. They are always in a hurry.
Do You Think They Give Designers A Bad Name?
I think they give the industry a bad name, not necessarily designers. But there are also some people who own fashion brands let me not call them designers who have not even learnt the ounce of fashion. Like for me I know making a jacket takes longer than making a dress due to the structure. But now you want to give a tailor 5 outfits to make and finish. When they can’t deliver, you think they are lazy because you don’t know how to sew.
People mismanage tailors and some don’t even pay them well. They end up starting their own side thing, and the whole thing is a cycle. In this case fashion is treated as a side hustle and not as a career.
So Do You Think Kenyans Are Buying More Locally Made Stuff?
There is improvement. I have seen people buying, especially if you love clothes. I know a lot of women love VIVO. I too shop from VIVO. She is a very pro made in Kenya. Sometimes I am tempted to source from abroad but am also very pro building Kenya. If we all keep buying from outside when will we grow?
How important is Trend to designers
I am one of those people who don’t like sewing so much. I design more of what I like to wear. When something is trending and people are like “Lorna make tights” for instance, I mean come on. Maybe for the gym but other than that I do not understand that phenomenon of walking around with tights.
I rarely wear trousers. People ask me to design though. I design what I like to wear by the time I am making for someone else, I know exactly how it will look and fit. And I know how to advise.
Being in business has however taught me to understand what the client wants. Not to always insist on my way and style. I would cringe at some designs but give clients what they want. However I would advise that as a designer you don’t let a client take away your creative process.
The industry is so saturated if I may so, even then am sure not much attention was paid to upcoming designers. How did you get your brand to the limelight?
For me I don’t even know if my brand is known, am always shocked. If someone tells me I saw your designs. Am like you did? Where?
I am sorry I am the type of person who has the worst relationship with the media. I don’t know how to suck up. If you want to feature me do, if you don’t want it’s all good. I am ok, we are good. For me the media has never really helped me. But the few articles helped me with YALI as proof. But being famous doesn’t help. If my brand is known, I want it to be known for quality of clothes & accessibility.
There is a lady who saw me on safari show on KBC. She didn’t even know I was a designer. I don’t think most people comprehended the show, coz it was badly edited.
Immediately I was eliminated I got into FA254. I applied, and by the time they were calling for auditions I was in safari show. So they said I could send someone and I sent my sister. She got me in.
My sister and my dad are my support system.
What Do You Think Africans Can Do So That We Support Each Other More? Not just Shows and Events, but also buying from Each Other.
In my experience In YALI, we were with other Africans. I was in Atlanta and I was the only Kenyan. The rest were Uganda, Tanzania, Ethopia, Djibouti, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Nigeria, Liberia, Angola, chad, Zambia, Cape Verde, Burundi, Zimbabwe and south Africa. If I have left you out and you are reading this article forgive me.
After mingling with them I realized there is disconnect in the continent in terms of what is going on in the region. The most informed are East Africans about Africa in general. We seem to know more about what is going on than the West Africans, and South Africans.
A Nairobian can’t say we have not met someone from the other regions. But for them they hardly interact with East Africans. Africans needs to educate each other about Africa. When you meet the expectation is different. Nigerians, Kenyans and South Africans have a good job of marketing themselves. If you ask someone to name three African countries you won’t miss those 3.
We need to start sharing our art, knowledge, culture and everything. It’s easy to work together once this is understood. Kenyans have been exposed to Nigerian and South African shows. Do they watch Kenyan shows?
I like watching sugar. I learnt so much from watching Nigerian and south Africa.
Fashion is a good way to go, but we still don’t buy from each other. I was talking to TDS founder and she has been featuring shoes from African designers which are sold in US and are not even here. The first market should be Africa. I know there is the buying power challenge but when will that change if we don’t make them accessible? Or at least sell it from here. Let them come here.
It’s like buying sari or kimono. If you need a good quality, go to India or Japan. It’s ok to do shows, but we should have it that if you want to buy, shop from Africa. It will encourage people to come to Kenya for other things other than animals, mud huts and mountains.
Other than the natural resources, we have our art, Modern Africa. I realized in US there was barely any news on Africa. We went to the CNN and they told us there is Inside Africa. CNN has two channels. The local CNN for Americans and the international CNN. CNN international is the one we watch. You could be happy CNN have inside Africa reporting positive news on Africa, but guess who are the viewers? Africans!
Europeans might watch it but the audience is Africans. A young kid asked me if I have zika. I have never been so proud to answer a question. I was like “we don’t have zika in Africa.”
I have also realized that most people think Kenya is so ahead in fashion. Think is the key word. But maybe we are we just need to improve. We have a very good reputation out there. But we are not using it and we are very negative for our own good.
We should definitely collaborate. Not just in fashion. Even tourism. Why don’t we have travel advisory for Africans!
So what do you think is making it hard for us?
Something that came up is that it is hard to transact in Africa. To travel to another African country you need a visa. To buy you need so much documentation, so you find that because of all that costs, you would rather not risk.
Uganda, Tanzania is fine. But Ethopia is even more restricting. Unless you have the outfit made three. How easily accessible is Ethopian fabric?
But I understand they are trying to preserve their culture. It’s a good thing, and a bad thing.
Locally, do you think there is unity and healthy competition within the industry
Cliques have always been there. Even in schools. God has blessed me such that I talk to almost everyone no matter what clique you are in. I don’t subscribe to any clique. As long as it’s a progressive thing it’s good. I don’t understand why the division is there. I don’t take other people’s opinion, I’d rather interact with someone and form my own opinion. I was once told something about someone but when I worked with her, she was very professional and nice. Her way of dealing with frustrations is different and there is no problem with that.
Yea, people handle things differently and no one should dictate how one should handle a certain situation
Yes. Like for me I sleep. If I don’t sleep I will cry so I’d rather sleep. I remember during the Safari reality show I cried. My model had not arrived for an evening gown showcase. She arrived few minutes before the showcase. By then I was given another model whom the dress was too short for. So I had made alterations. I cried they even had to stop filming. With editing, that is not shown so people just see am angry.
Did you guys audition for that show?
Yes we did with our previous work. They also had to make sure we could stich. For me if you can’t stitch, you are not a designer. You are a fashion business owner. Not all designers are creatives too.
Would you advise everyone to go to design school? Or its totally fine to rely on talent
I wouldn’t say you have to. But just know how to sew. With that you can know how to manipulate fabric. You end up frustrating the tailor telling them to do impossible things. Just know how to sew.
Fashion school is good. Nothing beats sitting with other creatives and working together. It’s about the community. Like for me I can sit the likes of Peggy, Pat Lulu Mbela and our discussion would be different from others who have not gone to design school. It’s not even bout where you went it’s about the knowledge.
How is the business side of fashion working for you?
The fashion business is almost nonexistence in this country. The issue is the supply chain. As designers we do so much work. We juggle too much. I find myself very tired. Business wise, I did a business course to be able to incorporate that in my work. I would want to have a workshop for fashion business. I’d even want a curriculum.
In design school we didn’t even have business modules. Maybe by now they have added it but then they didn’t have it. There is this show a spin of project runway called project runway start up. It’s like shark tank or lion’s den for fashion. It gets your mind off the creative aspect to whether your brand can be invested into, is it viable, will it be there few years down the line and such stuff. I learnt a lot.
Those shows really help me.
What does the future hold for Mia Mara?
In future I plan to create lots of things. Mia Mara is not restricted to clothes.
I could get into anything. The medium will change, but I will not let go of the clothes. I am happy where fashion is going technology wise. I am very interested in 3D printing and fashion and all those things. If I got an opportunity to study something, I would invest my time in that. It doesn’t make sense for me to go abroad and learn how to make clothes with fabrics, because in a couple of years that might not be the reality on the ground.
Fast fashion will come to an end eventually due to what it does to the environment. Africa might catch up later as we always do. For me I want to be ahead or in line. Tired of catching up.
Models: Pauline Ken,Rebecca,Jebet, Valerie, Winrose
MIA MARA CREATIONS