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Designer eyes African fashion market in style 0

This year Patricia Mbela, a fashion designer, launched a new label — Poisa (Taita for “to make”).As the head designer and sole proprietor of her fashion firm, Ms Mbela hopes to stay true to her preferred avant-garde style in clothing and jewellery. She wants to give fashion lovers something different from their “safe” wardrobes.

“I want my voice to be heard. I was not happy when designing safe,” she says.

In fashion industry, designers rebrand themselves by setting up a new house or label and let their new style and design voice be heard “afresh”.

Ms Mbela and her business partner parted ways in 2008, bringing their Agano label to an end. And after three years of working as a freelance designer riding on her name, the launch of the new fashion label marks a new milestone in her work.

Ms Mbela’s journey in the fashion industry began in 1998 when she returned to Kenya after years of studying at the Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, and Kent Institute of Art and Design in London.

Design unveiled

However, the conservative nature of Kenyans when it comes to dressing did not work out well for her unique designs, especially with the perception that her designs were “not fit to wear”.

However, she first unveiled her design at the Festival for African Fashion and Arts in 2009. It comprised less painting on the garments and was more structured.

“My style has been developing over the years but most importantly, I have gone back to my true self,” she says.

Fashion rebranding is based on the foundation of a well established label to attract new buyers (often younger ones) and maintain the old ones as well as changing business practices. After years of working from her house, Ms Mbela has opened shop at Cathy Flats on Lenana Road in Nairobi from where she designs jewellery, women and men’s wear.

Apart from capitalising on her name, which is well known in fashion circles, the social media (Facebook and Twitter) have come in handy to grow her fashion business.

She also works with fashion designer John Kaveke who used her jewellery to complement his collection that featured in the recent London Fashion Week.

“I am working to get the company known and setting up an online shop as well,” says Ms Mbela. “I have changed my strategy to focus on the African markets.”

She will participate in two influential African fashion fairs — Nigerian and Swahili — with two different collections. She would display her collections of 27 garments at a private fashion show on October 29. She argues that since Africa is the next frontier for global investment why not start by building her brand in the continent.

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By Mwikali LatiBusiness Daily

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