[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he world of fashion and design is full of surprises. If someone is not releasing some inconspicuous design that becomes an instant hit (and you wonder how), you stumble on people like Ruby Amondi Okidi who, despite studying sociology, is making a mark in Kenya’s nascent fashion industry.

“This has to be an accident,” says Ruby, “but definitely not a mistake.”

After graduating from Moi University in 2012, where she had a short stint in modelling and fashion, Ruby embarked on her career as a counselor for a few NGOs. Two years later, in 2014, she designed a random African outfit and posted on Facebook, which went viral. “Guys wanted the outfit, so I would make one when someone pays a deposit as I really didn’t have capital.”

Soon she turned this excitement into a full time job and launched her fashion brand STYLE BY RUBY. Her friends and relatives were shocked at the move to quit her job. “Many people believe graduation and office go hand in hand, and felt like fashion design is just a way to sugar-coat a career built with a sewing machine under a tree,” she says.

Her African inspired designs seek to revolutionise perceptions about the good old and often abused kitenge. “It’s not for choirs and boring people,” she observes, “It’s classy when you do it right.”

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Ruby says the passion for design in her was too hot to be ignored. After all, she says, “I set trends, I look good, I just wanted to help people to also look good while at it. I kept getting sighs from friends who kept asking when I would get a real job inasmuch as I kept explaining that fashion design, is a job.”

Her main focus is African inspired designs for weddings, functional wear and even casual outfits.

Different views of the maxi Ankara dress with lime bodise.

Months later, through STYLE BY RUBY, she designed winter collection for Miss Corporate Kenya. Ruby, who is striving to be one of the greatest African designers, says she has showcased in different forums including: Miss Kenya Corporate, Fashion is Music and Runway, Kisumu Fashion Week, Nairobi Fashion Week and many other forums. Three years ago, she was nominated at Vijana na Equity as a Top 40 young designer.

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Below, Ruby talks about the key areas of her business.

So what are some of the challenges you meet as an up and coming fashion designer?

Of course, as a young woman on social media, I also have challenges with clients who hide behind making an order but your phone starts ringing till late. But I still love my job. I meet different clients with different personalities. Tears and laughter are all part of the experience.

We are based in downtown Nairobi (just off Latema Road, at Siens Plaza opposite KCB Bank), which is a problem for our high end clients who prefer the less congested parts of the city. So they prefer delivery and that’s an additional cost.

Speaking of social media, what impact has it hard on you and your fashion career?

I believe the pressure of social media makes it a bit difficult for girls to slay in non-office jobs. But I am glad I am not only in love with my career path, it indeed brings satisfaction to know that your sponsor is you.

Full white Linen suits with a touch of gold from Style by Ruby.

Any low or high moments so far?

I have met fashion icons, I have had fashion shows and won a few competitions, but nobody knows how broke one gets when they begin a business. We have to look good but just like any business, I have hit my lowest ebb. I have struggled to pay bills, but my job requires me to look good. This is part of the journey that very few are aware of.

Oh, so you may opt out if it doesn’t work for you?

When you get into this career, it is like a marriage, for better, for worse. Of course I have friends who gave up along the way, but I pushed for my brand. I am happy that STYLE BY RUBY is now a household name.

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