Kenyan designer steals the show with ready to wear collection
What you need to know:
- At the core of the Carole Kinoti brand is a fleet of designers heading different sections. “I cannot do it alone. You can never be good in everything. I identify young designers with strength in an area to run with it. It is not just a fashion house but a company.”
- Fabric is what gives me the direction. I knew the woman I wanted to dress. Catwalks are organised but there was no order to the designs, just versatility. That’s who I am. I pack soft fabrics, a collection of outfits easy to accessorise, dress up and down, washed to dry overnight and serves more than one function.”
Designer read- to-wear or Pret-a-Porter is not common in Kenya. That is why the fashion industry celebrated when reknowed designer Carole Kinoti launched her ready wear collection.
Carole, who used to operate under the brand name La Casa Designers, changed to Carole Kinoti. “I’m Kenyan. If I go to London Fashion Week as La Casa journalists might speak to me in Italian. I needed a name reflecting that I am Kenyan,” said Carole at the event in Westwood Hotel on November 14.
“Besides being quicker and cheaper ready-to-wear really shows who I am as a designer,” she said.
But it has not been easy. “I have asked myself if it is possible to do this, to make these clothes, if I had lost my mind, if people will like it because there is always a risk they won’t. It is colourful and nothing like the Ankara people are used to. You should have seen me two hours before the launch.”
At the core of the Carole Kinoti brand is a fleet of designers heading different sections. “I cannot do it alone. You can never be good in everything. I identify young designers with strength in an area to run with it. It is not just a fashion house but a company.”
She added: “I’m a back office person. I have always liked my privacy. I do fashion for business, not for fame. When I chose to put my name there, I went through a phase. I am more sensitive to the brand now because it is something I want to be associated with and stand for. The brand and I cannot be separated.”
Carole says her collection is unique because of the fabric she uses. “What you see there is my character. I don’t like normal. I’m not keen on complicated cuts. I want people to adore the fabric. How does it move? How does it breathe? Finding fabric is my strength.”
She, however, says that the local textile industry has a long way to go. “I wish the textile industries were working for us.”
She sourced for the fabric back in February. “I didn’t have any kind collection in advance. Fabric is what gives me the direction. I knew the woman I wanted to dress. Catwalks are organised but there was no order to the designs, just versatility. That’s who I am. I pack soft fabrics, a collection of outfits easy to accessorise, dress up and down, washed to dry overnight and serves more than one function.”
Carole first trained for two years to be a chef “in a college in Meru.” As she waited for results she asked her father if she could join La Belle School of Hair Design & Beauty Therapy for a six-month course on hairdressing. She befriended a budding designer with a little room available for rent at Sh10,000 on Latema Road.
“I got engaged very young, at 21, and dad was a bit concerned about where my head was. But when I told him (what I wanted) he asked me to check for what I needed. Sure enough the next day I had all the salon equipment I needed! Dad is my biggest fan.”
Her tailor friend had numerous problems with clients. “I spent more time fixing her clients’ clothes than my clients’ hair! Eventually she got married and moved to Nyeri to start a hairdressing school. I moved to Jogoo Road and started my design business,” she said.
But getting good tailors proved to be a herculean task. That is when she decided to return to college. “When I enrolled in Woodgrove Fashion College my mum told my husband – ‘why are you wasting your money? She can’t even fix a button’. I have a very supportive husband. If I tell him let’s go sell clothes upside down, he asks where?”
But her career took a back seat since she chose to tend to her family first. “My husband and kids come first. I needed first to be a mother. But my kids started asking why I didn’t have plans when I went home early on Fridays. That is when I figured they were old enough and it was time to realise my dream. Everything I do is for my family.”
She returned with a resolve to grow her business. “I went back to Strathmore Business School last year. I was struggling and I wanted to grow. It really helped me understand how to package my business, separate myself from it, sit back and analyse what needs to be done when and how to timelines. I thank God for Strathmore.”
So is she looking for investors? “I’ve thought about it. Problem with investors is if you are not on the right page you can lose your direction. This is a new concept. It hasn’t been done. Getting someone to buy your story may be tricky.”