Running Shkwela, an eco-friendly accessories fashion brand, has always been on Wanjiku Njenga’s To-Do list.
Born and raised in Isiolo, Njenga had always wanted to venture into a career that would help the local community around her.
This directed her to study law but the creative bug in her would interrupt her career path as she left school to work as a volunteer in numerous non-profit organisations.
But it was not until 2017 when the government banned the use of plastic bags that her prayers were literally answered.
It all came clear to her on what she should be doing — making environmentally-friendly bags for everyday woman.
“I have always wanted to do something for the community, like conserving the environment and the ban came at the best time for me. The sight of plastic bags being dumped anywhere just irritated me, and I had been toying around with the idea of making fashionable shopping Viondo’s,”
In 2018 she officially launched her line, under the brand name Shkwela, made from sisal and leather. At the beginning it was not easy to sell her products she says, since the Viondo’s in local tribes are moistly used by the elderly in the society.
“The modern day women want something chic and classy. A bag is a very important accessory for women and it has been used to make fashion statements all around the world,”
She adds: “I did not want to make bags that looked like the ones already in the market I had to come up with new designs.”
Her best seller has been the round bag made from sisal that is dyed in different colours.
She also makes the sling bag that comes in two different designs. One that can be used as an everyday bag, while the other is specifically designed for the beach.
The sling bags she makes from sisal are not ideal for the beach since they are easily ruined by water. To get around this problem, sling bags for the beach are made from palm leaves.
Her inspiration was to create something that, according to her, shouts Kenyan. The Kiondo was ideal for this as most people around the world associate it with the Kenyan heritage. Most of the material she uses is locally sourced. She also does custom-made pieces from designs brought in by clients.
And bags are not all she makes. She also offers household items, including wall and laundry baskets. To store blankets, socks and also for those who like to have plants in the house, would buy the basket Kiondo from her where they would place the flower pots inside to give it a unique African look.
“I have also been receiving a lot of request from the men to start making for them backpacks, laptop bags because they say the designs are amazing. Also before the year ends I will launch my line of diaper bags inspired by Africa,” she says.