Over the last 10 years, Ogake Mosomi has made a name for herself in Kenya's luxury fashion sector.
Her bespoke bridal gowns, that cost as much as Sh200,000, are a work of art highly sought by local and international clients.
In the course of her fashionpreneur journey, she bagged awards, including the Wedding Dress Designer of the Year, during the Kenya Wedding Industry Awards in 2019.
With over 300 bridal bespoke bridal gowns to her name, Ogake has spun off her brand into a luxury gowns rental unit. Renaissance Bridal by Ogake's business model opens new revenue streams for her firm and clients who bring their prized pieces of art fashion for rent.
What inspired the move to go into the bridal gown rental business?
The pandemic changed the way people plan their weddings. Brides were unwilling to spend huge budgets on their dresses, and instead of a 1,000-guest list that Kenyans are accustomed to, couples started considering smaller and more intimate events.
Brides were keen on more affordable dresses that they could reuse.
Several enquired from us what they could do with their gowns after the celebrations, and that's when it became apparent to us that there is a market for a bridal gown that has only been worn for a few hours.
Have you had to adjust and evolve your business model because brides are not purchasing Ogake Misomi bespoke luxurious gowns?
Yes and No. Some people can afford the luxurious gowns, but there are also those affected by the pandemic who would have easily purchased a luxury gown, but now it's no longer accessible.
Renaissance by Ogake connects the bride who purchased the luxurious gown and enjoyed wearing it for a few hours to another who wants to celebrate her big day by looking and feeling glamorous on a budget.
By hiring it out, we extend its life cycle.
What criteria do you use in selecting gowns to be stocked?
We always have to maintain the shop aesthetics with a contemporary look, so we only stock rental bridal gowns from 2018 to date because the styles are similar.
The gown must be clean and of good quality with no rips or stains to maintain the luxe feel. The primary purpose of Renaissance Bridal by Ogake is to ensure that brides can experience a luxurious rental gown from local and international brands like Vera Wang and Maggie Sottero at a price point they can afford.
We are steering away from cheaper rental gowns as other players in the market are catering to that target audience.
The prominent colours of dresses we stock are white, cream, ivory, champagne, blush, and nude.
What's the procedure when women bring their gowns to Renaissance Bridal by Ogake for stocking?
Once we have done our due diligence and established that the gown is in good condition and can be stocked at the store for a maximum of nine months, we work on a 50/50 revenue share agreement.
They can also give us their used gowns to sell for them. It is important to note that once a dress has been worn, it loses 50 percent of its original value.
So, for example, if you bought the dress at Sh150,000, it is now valued at Sh75,000; therefore, that's the figure we shall work with.
In cases of very high-end designer gowns, we are open to negotiation on the rental fee.
If a bride purchased the dress and never used it, we would obviously inspect the gown and confirm that it's still in good condition then we can negotiate on a slightly higher price point.
We sign contracts with the owners of the gowns. We also sign an agreement with the bride renting the gown that requires them to pay a security deposit.
If the dress is returned in good condition, they receive their full deposit back, but if they do not return the gown within the stipulated period, they might lose most or all their security deposit.
The security deposit also covers cases of damaged dresses that cannot be reused.
In the period that Renaissance Bridal by Ogake stocks a bridal dress for rental purposes, it can be worn three to four times, and thus its rental value depreciates every time it is worn.
How does the rental model work if a bride is not based in Nairobi or Kenya?
Currently, we have yet to have any bridal client who is based out of the country.
For clients outside of Nairobi, the security deposit is higher so that we are covered if there is an issue and the gown is not returned.
Also, we always communicate with the owner of the gown that it's being rented by a bride outside of Nairobi, and if they are not comfortable with that, then we do not rent it out.
Do you rent out bridal accessories and shoes?
Accessories, crowns, veils, and shoes are for purchase.
These delicate items get damaged easily; thus, we cannot hire them out to another bride. Once you dry-clean a veil, the fabric doesn't maintain its original form.
Our accessories cost as little as Sh1,500. Anything we custom-make is slightly more pricey. For example, a customised crown costs as much as Sh20,000 and a dramatic cathedral veil Sh25,000.
What aspect of sustainable fashion is your bridal rental business addressing?
We recycle gowns by extending their life cycle to be used multiple times.
We are reducing the amount of fabric used to make gowns and reducing fabric that would have gone into landfills.
What are the future plans for Renaissance Bridal by Ogake?
There is definitely a need for bridal gown hire, so we plan to have branches in different cities across Kenya.
We also seek to expand and offer rental evening gowns and our own label Ogake accessories and shoes so that we are a one-stop shop for all bridal requirements.
How have local brides' styles, tastes, and budgets evolved in the last 7 years?
There is a significant evolution in the bridal industry. Brides are now more outgoing and daring in the taste and style of gowns they select.
West Africa has a major influence on local brides, and today you will notice the preference for super-contoured fitted gowns with a lot of detailing.
We still have brides who like the classic European style with lace, but most have taken the route of West African-inspired gowns.
The budget has also evolved.
I remember making my first bridal dress for a friend for Sh11,000! In the last five years, the Ogake brand has grown.
We have more experience and access to luxurious, exclusive fabrics and can create complex styles.
Where do you see the bridal industry heading in the next 5 years?
An appreciation for bespoke gowns. Brides are going to be very demanding.
The current Kenyan bride is very discerning and exposed; she knows the options and has very high expectations.
I see more custom-made local and international brands establishing themselves in the market.
How do you deal with difficult brides, and what is your most challenging experience with a bride?
We have been dealing with difficult brides for many years. It takes a lot of professionalism because you don't want your brand reputation to be ruined, regardless of whose fault it is.
The important thing is to find a solution to the issue. Take, for example, our luxury bridal brand Ogake Mosomi.
We ensure that we sign contracts at the start of engagement with the bride, and the entire process of sketches and notes are all documented, and each stage has approvals and sign-off from the bride.
My most challenging experience is with a bride who is unsure of what she wants and has no vision of the desired look.
These are the clients I advise to opt for ready-made or rental gowns. With bridal gowns, you have to be true to yourself; it is not the time to start experimenting with different styles.
Be honest with yourself because you know what flatters your body silhouette.
Brides must also be careful when they say they want bespoke, simple bridal gowns because they are on a budget.
Simple dresses only work for some and could become a disaster, especially if they are trying to add embellishments and detailing at the last minute.
What is your opinion on brides who change 2-3 times on their wedding day?
Brides having various options on their wedding day is a trend in Kenya, and these brides are our ideal clients at Renaissance Bridal by Ogake.
I tell brides, "This is your day; the spotlight is on you, so soak it in and make the most of your day!" I advise brides to spend most of their budget on the main wedding gown and then opt for a rental for their second change.
Another option is to make or rent a convertible bridal dress with a detachable tail that can be detached for the reception ceremony to allow ease of movement.
What advice do you wish you had been told as a bride as you prepared for your wedding day?
Enjoy your day, and don't sweat the small stuff like uninvited guests. I had some at my wedding, and it really upset me.
When it comes to weddings, especially African weddings, it's not just about you; there is the bigger family and other stakeholders who are also a part of this day and have roles to play.
This is the day when the spotlight is on you. After this day, your role changes. You are somebody's wife or mother, so make the most of your big day.
Advice for 2023 brides
In our current economic situation, you can manage your budget by renting a gown. Do not look at it as a second-hand gown but rather as a luxurious gown that you are wearing to celebrate your big day.
Be true to yourself; do not wear a gown for somebody or have someone dictate what to wear.
Let it be your style, and when you look at the pictures, you will be happy with the gown you chose to celebrate your wedding day.