The fashion industry in Kenya has evolved, not only in terms of clothing but also in the people who are endlessly making strides to make sure that the African fashion industry in Africa blows Paris out of the water. One of those brilliant minds is the talented Roselyn Shiyenze Khasoha. At just the age of 22, Roselyn has managed to build her brand, Shiyenze Fashion that is recognizable not only in the country, but other parts of the world as well.
As Shiyenze Fashion celebrates its third year, Roselyn has embarked on a style campaign dubbed ‘40 days 40 personalities with Shiyenze’ where the Kenyan fashion line shall dress 40 influential personalities within a period of 40 days. This online campaign has been aimed at not only informing their clientele, both locally and internationally, more about what Shiyenze Fashion but also setting a pace in the fashion industry showcasing some of the best that Kenya has to offer.
The list of influential personalities includes of a wide variety of thought leaders from all industries including business moguls, celebrity hosts, social media influencers and artists. The dress code shall include casual, official, smart and so much more from the wide selection of the already existing collections: Mara, Binti & Boss and Mtindo. The photos from the ’40 Days 40 Personalities’ project shall be disseminated on their social media platforms under #VaaShiyenze and #40Days40Personalities hash tags.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Shiyenze and what do you do?
My name is Shiyenze Khasoha, a Kenyan born and bred designer. I am 22 years old and I’m fourth year student at USIU-Africa majoring in Finance and French. Fashion is my life and I cannot go a day without indulging in art. My life revolves around the art arena and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. You can find me either painting, designing, making jewellery or in the theatre. I am privileged to have had my artistry skills honed at a tender age.
How and when did Shiyenze Fashion start?
Shiyenze is a Kenyan fashion brand based in Nairobi that was officially started three years ago. The brand consists of a fashion line that is richly African, genuinely inspired by the pinnacle of the diversity and beauty of our African culture. I began Shiyenze as a jewellery store and with time we have revolutionized to garment product and soon enough, we might just dive into the retail sector.
Shiyenze has two collections a year. The inspiration for each collection is drawn from Africa’s rich cultural lifestyles. The collections integrate African prints, silks, cotton and linens to create exceptional global appeal.
Why fashion? Did you always picture getting into this line of work? Or what did you want to pursue as you grew up?
I can’t clearly tell how I ended up in Fashion, but from a tender age I have always been a creative. When I joined fashion, it was one of the most brilliant ideas I had ever had; mostly because it pooled all my gifts to one so I had the privilege of having a strong foundation for the brand.
So far, have you seen the vision that you had set out for Shiyenze fashion take off?
Yes, the vision is being realized daily and I’m constantly growing. Fashion is a language and you have to really know how to communicate with your audience and that’s something me and my team are getting to learn every day.
What makes your designs stand out from others?
My designs are birthed out of ritzy handiwork that fits the story at the moment. I aim at telling stories in my handiwork. We go at great stakes to ensure that each of our designs carries an expression or feeling as it maintains its unique cultural attribute.
How many clients and orders do you get in a day/week/month? What are some of the biggest clients and orders you’ve made?
The orders I receive are relative depending on season, for example the Spring Summer collection sells more; the minimum number of orders can go up to 10. Sometimes we get a huge number of bulk orders and it gets crazy for us all but it’s really good for business.
Where do you source your material from? Is it easy/hard to acquire?
Getting quality fabric in the country is always a challenge, but I have created links to import some of my major fabrics.
What motivates you?
The joy of having someone wear my designs and the reactions I get, those are just some of the things that keep me going. I love it when someone gets to feel good about themselves when they get the chance to Vaa Shiyenze.
Describe to us your typical day of work
I always have busy days and I really believe I’m the true definition of a nocturnal being. I mostly sleep at 2 a.m. then rise by 8 a.m. I then spend time in prayer and devotion. After that I have breakfast, return calls, reply to emails then check in at my workshop. I also have a lot of meetings to go for which I also balance out by going to school. After school and finishing up with most of my day’s work I go back to creating and designing; I mostly design and stitch a lot during the night.
Do you get people to help you out in sourcing and executing the ideas for your projects?
Yes I do. I believe a lot in team work and in my projects, I pull in as many people as the project may require. Currently I have some of the best creative minds I could ask for: the Vaa Shiyenze team.
What do you love most about working in Nairobi? Is the city open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is very flexible. I also love the liberal mind set of the people of Nairobi. Working in the city is also very flexible for me because as far as I’ve seen we have a very workable 24 hour system and I can work at any time.
I’m also an event lover and I like the fact that the city is a hub of different event scenes and I love attending most of them. Nairobi also dares one to be different; she really dares you to stand out.
What are some of the biggest and most memorable moments of your life so far?
I think one of my best is having people buy clothes from me, including people from abroad. I have plenty of loyal customers who buy Shiyenze and we thank God for DHL for making that possible.
In 2015, I was named the emerging men’s wear designer of the year at the Jumia Glamour Awards, this was something I really hadn’t seen coming, and I’ll also have the opportunity to showcase at an international Fashion Week in September and I simply can’t wait!
I’m also really excited about the #40Days40Personalities project. It’s been great so far and I trust that the campaign will forever leave a mark in the African fashion industry.
What are some of the ups and downs you’ve faced in your business?
Bad debts from clients; sometimes you work for weeks on end to deliver some of your best work only for clients to either dodge or not fulfil their end of the deal. It’s also a downside when you find your work is copied by another designer without accreditation.
One of my best times is when I’m walking on the streets of the city and I spot someone in Shiyenze.
Do you have any other side businesses or personal ventures apart from Shiyenze fashion?
At the moment, I live and breathe Shiyenze Fashion.
As a designer how is the fashion market in Kenya? What do you think fashion designers and creators should do to promote the fashion industry in not just Kenya but in East Africa and Africa as well?
The fashion market has an untapped pool of creatives. What I really think it needs at the moment for such a fast growing market is proper regulations and management.
Where do you see yourself as a company in the next ten years?
God willing in the next ten years, Shiyenze Fashion will be retailing in not just different countries but different continents.
Who do you dress in Kenya (or outside the country) and who would you love to dress in the near future?
I’ve had the privilege of dressing various people. From the common mwananchi to media personalities like NTV’s Larry Madowo & KTN’s Jamal Gaddafi to business moguls like the C.E.O of Shade Systems, African entrepreneur Eric Kinoti and I’ve loved every minute of it.
I look forward to dressing Michelle Obama and Adele.
Creating a brand, one that has been well received so far, must have been hard work. What can you tell to young designers who aspire to get into the business of making fashion?
Never give up. Each artist has their audience don’t conform to the status quo. Be authentic because someone is looking forward to hear your story.