Kokeb Zemed Pinard, an Ethiopian who lives in Kenya, is one of the few designers still using the traditional dress-making techniques.
She uses hand woven patterns from Ethiopia and West Africa and tie-dyes materials which bring out the different shades of the sky. This is the unique technique that won her the 2017 East Africa Designer of the Year award.
Kokeb was feted at the Kenya Fashion Awards (KFA) gala, an event which is now in its fifth year.
“It has been a remarkable journey for myself, being able to bring in something that is authentic and original that also celebrates our African fashion heritage,” she said. Her design journey started 30 years ago when she went to India to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Science.
Being exposed to the different culture that is full of colour and the texture of the fabrics inspired the creative inside of her. She later meet her husband who is French and moved to France.
“The fashion industry in these two countries is very rich with many options and when I came to Kenya I wanted to bring it out,” she said.
She started with men’s suits and gowns for women. The most outstanding was a wedding gown that had a long cape that acted as a train with a feathered crown.
For her latest collection, she used handwoven and dyed materials.
“When people hear of tie and dye they think of the usual commercially mass produced designs,” she said, adding that a good designer knows that dying a unique material is the most difficult thing to do.
For instance, her bomber jacket has different shades of colours including blue, baby pink and green— making the jacket look like a painter’s card.
“I combine the four elements of the universe, air, water, fire and earth which bring out a unique design,” she said.
Her Origami butterfly dress presented at the Fashion High Tea 2017 was unique because it evoked comfort, beauty and elegance.
“I am in love with textiles especially the old ones because we are losing them. Why should we lose our heritage as Africans, because where will you get such materials? In a museum in London?”, she said.