Carole Kinoti is a fashion designer who creates a variety of artistic outfits for various body sizes and shapes as well as age, financial status or careers. The fashion designer has a variety of lines including ready-to-wear, corporate uniforms and furnishings, and customers to conveniently buy ready-made outfits. She has worked in fashion and design for over 15 years.
“I think I was born a creative,” says Ms Kinoti. “I didn’t know I would be a fashion designer. I grew up knowing I’ll be a chef and even went to school for three years and studied to be a chef.”
After school, Ms Kinoti says she shared an office with someone who had a tailoring business. She found herself developing a keen interest in what she was doing. “I later moved into my own premises, opened up a tailoring shop and I decided to go to fashion school,” Ms Kinoti said during an exhibition of her fashion line at Fairmont Norfolk, Nairobi.
Looking back she says she has discovered something interesting: “I have, however, come to realize is that food, fashion and beauty are inseparable. They are an important aspect of life and style,” she added
Ms Kinoti has been in business through all the major fashion phases. The times when people wouldn’t pay a dime to have their clothes tailor-made, to the ‘mitumba’ era, fast fashion, to a point where clients call her to fill up their suitcases as they travel abroad.
“Fashion has grown to a point where Kenyans want to associate with Kenyan brands, I could honestly write a book,” she says
What makes her fashion line stand out is the fact that she makes her outfits from silk, chiffon, and fibres. She also designs them with a creative beading section, especially on the wrists.
All these are locally available products which, she says, are quite costly. Her price ranges differ depending on the client needs. Ms Kinoti revealed that she is coming up with a male’s line that will be inspired by one of her designs known as Dhahabu cuffs.
“I am proud of my designs because they are Kenyan. Not West African, not Ankara but Kenyan,” she says emphatically. “Some of the ones you are seeing tonight are actually decorated and dyed with turmeric and coffee.”
Ms Kinoti says she is partnering with Strathmore Business School, Royal Media Services and Generation in programs known as Mavazi Elevate and Fashion on the Road, inspired by the challenges she faced as a startup designer.
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Fashion on the Road is a community-based program aimed at training designers in marketing and distribution while Mavazi Elevate is aimed at training 3,000 entrepreneurs across the country and instilling skills to come up with quality products and value addition.
Some of the challenges she faced related to marketing, distribution, lack of local fabrics, high cost of productions, poor exécutions from tailors and inadequate finances.
“You can never define Kenyans with one look. Kenyans are so diverse and naturally contemporary,” Ms Kinoti told Business Today. “Just put a little bit of everything together and let them own it their way then at least we can say that we are our own people.”