Have you ever met someone so unafraid? Unafraid of even death itself. You watch as they walk into a room fearlessly. So fearless that their walking style- each step calculated- says it all. Their aura oozes with grandeur. When they begin to talk you appreciate the job they do.
Truth be told some jobs don’t go well with certain personalities. And if we are being honest, there are companies that insist on doing personality tests as part of their hiring process. Imagine a sales or marketing person who is an introvert. I will let you do the math there. But if my calculation is right, either this person wears different hats or ultimately throws in the towel.
Then there are other jobs like fashion and design. These are for the chosen few. Those that dare to be bold, fearless, unafraid even of death itself. I am not referring to typical tailors. Like those within the estates that you take your torn pants or shirts or dresses to. Who then fix your torn clothes by putting patches of other torn clothes on the torn parts of your clothes what we all know as viraka.
Tailors are important don’t get me wrong and we need them. But I am referring to fashion designers like Valerie Nyamwaya, a men’s wear enthusiast whose dream is to be featured on Vogue magazine. You do the math here (OK enough with doing math. Don’t shoot me). How many tailors are fashion forward or even dream of being on Vogue the magazine?
As a young fashion designer who grew up enjoying the company of boys, such as her male cousins, uncles and friends, it is no wonder that Valerie settled on doing men’s clothing. After graduating from Egerton University, it was no brainer this is what she wanted to do and so she started her brand line, AfriVazi.
“AfriVazi, quite a unique name for a fashion line”, I say to Valerie as I take a glance at her dreadlocks with three of the strands lying neatly on her forehead almost touching her eyes. We are seated at a table in Java enjoying some dawa concoction.
“Ooh thank you. It simply means African Vazi (attire). I want to push our African wear and that’s what the name means. But the idea originally started back in campus when we started a fashion show as a platform for people to showcase their talent. But after we graduated, I thought I should carry on with what we started back in campus. So I went on to start a male’s clothing line.”
“So who is your fashion icon?”
“I have always admired Coco Chanel. She was a woman who stood for strong ideals. She was unafraid to challenge the status quo. Her legacy still lives on. I also desire that long after am gone, that AfriVazi will still live on. This is why young businesses need to have a sustainability plan especially those in fashion and design industry like myself.”
“What is the one thing you want your clients to feel when you dress them?”
“I want my clients to feel good about themselves whenever they dress up in what we design and make for them. They should feel like they own the world.”
Talk of making people feel good about themselves, Valerie has had the honours of dressing guys for their big days like dowry ceremonies and weddings. Some of her clients include a guy who is overseas. He saw her work on Facebook and contacted her to make him two shirts.
The gentleman, Simon the Royal, was so pleased with the shirts that he went on to give Valerie the honours of dressing him and his bride on their wedding. Now, this is what we call living the dream. Check out Afrivazi on social media to see the magic her hands did on that occasion. The smiles on the client’s faces tell it all.
Gentlemen, gone are the days when you would show up at your in-laws or in-laws in waiting in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Times have changed and so should your dressing code. Aren’t you lucky that designers like Valerie have been born at such a time as this? What you need to do since she has a soft spot for guys is, let her custom make a nice African wear for you.
“Do you know some of the most feared people are tailors?” I ask Valerie.
Valerie smiles. She smiles a lot. “There is a remnant of good ones. I try to keep my word to my clients. For the tailors I work with, I ensure we deliver on time. Sometimes I get orders back to back but I try to ensure there is no compromise on the delivery. We cannot afford to let down our clients. We are because they are.”
Ladies, please don’t think that this read is for guys just because we are featuring a men’s clothing line. This is for you too. Those of you that have been longing to transform the wardrobe of the men in your lives. Wouldn’t it be nice to surprise these men with amazing, pocket-friendly shirts from Afrivazi?
As Valerie awaits you to place your order, there is a very special man in my life that needs to rock in an AfriVazi, my uncle. He is ever in suits and I believe a different look on him will do him some good. He needs a change. He needs to see there’s more to life than his oversized suits and that he can still be taken seriously even in a nice casual shirt with an African touch.