If you’re on the hunt for exciting, fresh fashion talent, look no further: this new initiative, held in partnership with the British Council, has hand-picked 20 African designers – Kenya’s brightest rising stars – marking them out as the ones to watch in Nairobi’s ever-expanding creative scene. Entitled Creative DNA 2.0, the project incorporates an intensive three-month business incubator programme for a group of carefully selected designers spanning clothing, footwear and accessories, with the aim of bringing the vibrancy of African fashion to the forefront.
Cherry-picked from a pool of 100 creative fashion talents from across the country, the final group of creatives is made up of 12 female and eight male designers, all from diverse geographical locations, ranging from Nairobi all the way up to Kakuma Refugee Camp. Focusing on emerging talents across different sectors, from couture and fine jewellery to streetwear, the designers chosen include sustainable accessories brand Luxaltra, unisex label Tug, ethically handcrafted jeweller Tiger Tail Twister and statement knitwear brand Olisa Kenya.
Black & white set @iliki_resortwear
As part of the programme, acclaimed photographer Maganga Mwagogo and stylist Dwayne Kenzie have teamed up to create three exclusive photoshoots, with each one exploring what personal identity and freedom means for African designers in a post-Covid world. The first looks at how fashion can be used as a form of communication, the second celebrates the energy of Nairobi through its youthful skate culture and the third offers up a more polished version of the city, spotlighting the sophisticated glamour of the Kenyan capital.
“Fashion is a liberating form of self-expression, and Dwayne and I set out to explore and celebrate this,” says Mwagogo of the shoots. “The styling and make-up are striking, empowering the models and enabling them to truly stand out from the crowds. They show that people can get out of their comfort zones and experiment.”
Bag & scarf (worn as skirt) @sianna_textileprints
Promoting cross collaboration and understanding between Kenya and the UK, the programme follows on from 2020’s highly successful Creative DNA 1.0, which saw the African designers chosen become an integral part of the creative economies and networks in Kenya. After taking part in the project’s business acceleration masterclasses and training, many of the designers saw significant business growth and international media recognition from the likes of Vogue Italia and Business of Fashion – this year’s cohort are hoping for more of the same.
Created in partnership with award-winning international consultancy and platform Fashion Scout – known for hosting some of the most exciting showcases during London Fashion Week – and FAFA (Festival of African Fashion and Arts) Kenya, through the intensive programme participants will receive a business bootcamp delivered by experts from Kenya and the UK (including Fashion Scout founders Martyn and Biljana Roberts and fashion designer Christine-Ann McCreath) as well as one-to-one mentoring, a series of live panel discussions, networking events and round-table discussions. The designers will also be given a month-long pop-up in the heart of Nairobi as part of the programme, helping them with sales and brand promotion. Above all, the project looks to work with African designers and their communities to help promote innovation and creativity, while also championing equality, diversity and inclusion.