Kanga fabric spins cash for former top model
Posted Thursday, August 2 2012 at 20:05
Entering Kanga Kulture shop located on the ground floor of Adams Arcade in Nairobi, one cannot fail to notice the bright coloured garments popularly known as kangas on its shelves.
The kanga craze has risen sharply in the past five years as more women and adventurous men pile clothes made from the fabric in their wardrobes.
Juliet Kwamboka, the owner of Kanga Kulture, says that she is out to embrace this native East African fabric and build a lifestyle around it.
When Kwamboka returned to Kenya after completing her studies in Australia in 2004, she noticed that prices of African clothes and accessories in the market were too high.
Convinced that she could offer the same for much less, she opened her first fashion business based on the fabric. Offering clothes made exclusively from the kanga was challenging.
“I needed to change the culture. It cannot be that it’s the foreigner that wants to buy at Sh10,000. To change the culture, I could not start charging Sh10,000. You have to offer good quality clothes at decent prices,” she says.
In 2006, Ms Kwamboka opened a shop with a business partner but sold it off soon after. She took a break from business for a year.
When she resumed, she set up Kanga Kulture shop. “I learnt that I could do it by myself. I think the hardest thing to do is start a business, especially for a single mom like me. If you are going to have a partner, you must have the same vision,” she says.
Although the previous venture involved intensive tailoring work, the experience made the new business seem much easier.
Again, tailors from the business moved with her. It was also easy for her to order for the kanga fabric from Mombasa and Zanzibar since she had already established contacts.
Kwamboka’s interest in fashion began during a stint as a model, which saw her become one of the finalists in the first edition of M-Net Face of Africa in 1997.
“I was a tomboy, tall and lanky kid who did not know what do with her height,” she says.
Kwamboka was pulled into the competition when she went to pay for her satellite TV service at the MultiChoice offices.
After the competition, she left for Australia to pursue university education. During her undergraduate studies, she joined a modelling agency where she worked for seven years.
“I would get jobs because blacks were very few at the time. Being a model, grew my interest in fashion and I started learning about what was in or out and behind the scenes,” she says.