Achieng : Kenyan designer

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Tailoring has a long tradition inAfrican fashion, and has been the way that countless designers get their starting the industry. Many start from a young age, learning the culturally important craft through their mothers, with a talented and passionate few working their way to developing their own clothing lines. One such talent, Achie Otigo, did just that. Hailing from Kenya, the head designer and founder of her eponymous ready-to-wear brand Achie Otigo, graduated from the University of Nairobi specializing in design. Otigo tells us how she fell in love with fashion“Whenever my mum would tailor things for us or her friends, I would watch curiously. Every now and then she’d let me play on her machine and that’s whenI began to love tailoring.

I kept practicing all through to campus where I began to charge.” Her mother’s work continued to instill and inspire an appreciation for fashion, and encouraged her to go after a career as a designer. While improving her craft, she took her designs to another level by learning to turn her emotions and abstract creative ideas into wearable art.Admiring those who came before her, some of her favorite Kenyan designers are Nick Ondu, Ogake and Kaveke John. On the international high fashion scene she recently discovered Iris Van Herpen, whose unique use of unconventional materials inspires her a lot, as well as Alexander McQueen, Olivier Rousteing and Gareth Pugh.

She expands on her process of designing clothes, “When designing I tend to creatively go with my flow, so whatever fabrics I feel drawn to are the ones I’ll buy and experiment with. I enjoy going to hunt/shop for fabrics as it gives me the opportunity to immerse myself”. Playing music during her process helps her access different levels of creativity, having the sound of music influence the cut and structure of her designs. believes in quality, and takes joy in designing well-fitting, wearable, pieces that make her clients feel confident, powerful and happy. Otigo believes there is room for more Kenyan designers to take advantage of international platforms that offer opportunities to learn, showcase designs and conduct business.

         Some designers in Kenya have been able to have a successful career, but others don’t gain recognition locally due to lack of funding and access to mentorship programs. Part of her mission is to empower the voice of the youth by using her platform to point out issues affecting them. “Over time I have been blessed with a growing following on social media who are eager not only for my fashion content but to be part of just causes. As I type this, I’m thinking along the lines of organizing fun pop up theaters, installation gallery showings and even fashion shows whose focal theme can be highlighting their issues and solutions”. Otigo has a new collection in the works which could drop at any moment. Watch out for her latest designs!

By : Yussuf Yanni

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