When Lupita Nyong’o landed in Kisumu last week, she received a rousing welcome especially from the people of Seme, her village where she spent most of her day.
Kenya’s Hollywood star was home, and on that day as part of celebrating being home, she chose to wear an outfit by a Kenyan designer. Few people were aware of the fact that the pink jacket that was matched with a hand embroidered and printed flowered skirt was by Deepa Dosajo whose design house goes by the same name.
“It was a dream come true for me. Lupita is one of the people I have looked forward to dressing and she is on my vision board,” said Ms Dosajo in an interview at her store where she showed me a photo of her vision board. And yes, Lupita is on it with the words “Africa rising” next to the cutout.
“We are very proud as a Kenyan company that we got to dress our international fashion icon,” said Ms Dosajo.
The story of the 40-something-year-old mother of three is one of believing in yourself, not giving up and finding another door when one closes.
She tells the story of how Ann McCreath of Kiko Romeo contacted designers over the weekend and asked them to drop their designs at her shop by the Monday afternoon as she was meeting with Lupita’s stylist – Micaela Erlanger.
Ms Dosajo did not meet the deadline but instead of giving up, she and her husband opted to google Lupita’s stylist and they got a contact. On Monday evening, they sent out an email to Micaela, introducing herself and her design house.
To her utter joy, she got a positive email on Tuesday morning and by lunch time, she dropped four outfits at the Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel reception where Lupita and her team were staying.
“That evening, we got an email informing us she would wear one of our outfits. I couldn’t believable my luck,” she said. “Now that jacket, which was one of a kind, is called Lupita.”
All the outfits were returned other than the one the star wore, which the designer requested her to keep. International standards see celebrities return outfits they are given to wear, unless the designers gift them.
When the Hollywood star stepped down at the Kisumu International Airport, and proceeded to Seme for a function at a local school, she was draped in Deepa Dosajo.
The designer also got to meet Ms Erlanger at a workshop arranged by Ms McCreath at the Micheal Joseph Centre in Nairobi.
“It was an insightful and helpful talk on how we, as Kenyan designers, can get to meet and dress celebrities. We have to hustle for this calibre of clients. Such jobs will not come on a silver platter. You have to work hard at it because fashion designers throughout the world are after the same people,” says Deepa who has a wide range of clientele and has dressed some of Kenya’s leading ladies as well as international ones.
Having dressed Lupita, she hopes to reach more women with Michelle Obama being on her vision board. “I think she would look good in our designs, do you think she is coming [referring to President Obama’s visit to Kenya this month].”
Also on her list is English actress Keira Knightly whose style she loves as well as the founder of Bobbi Brown make-up.
Ms Dosajo realised her creative instincts at the age of 13. She trained in fashion design in Canada before moving back home to Kenya where 25 years ago she launched her design house.
At that time, her designs were called Va bene Couture but in 2013, she rebranded opting to use her name. She also opened her flagship store at 14 Riverside in Nairobi and maintains a workshop along Riverside where she has employed 18 people.
She started working with linen before moving to cotton. Today, at least 80 per cent of her ultra-feminine designs are silk.