A scarf is the one fashion accessory a woman should not miss in her closet. It can be used to dress almost anything up, says Priya Shah, co-owner of Mia Kora, a fashion brand with presence in Kenya and UK.
What makes Ms Shah’s scarves and shawls stand out is their artistic appeal.
Her unique designs feature from Indian Ocean to the wilderness and the scarves are woven from the finest blends of fibres, silks and cashmere.
Since she started five years ago, scarves have become more than just accessories and the ultimate fashion multitasker. Just like wearable art, she imprints her paintings on the scarves and recently started including works from international artists.
“Before starting the brand, I was a full-time artist and a new mother. My business partner was in construction with a keen eye for fabrics. I wanted my art to reach more people,” she says.
People loved her paintings, she says, but they were unable to buy the artworks. So she came up with an idea of wearing art.
“It took off remarkably. Now paintings can be appreciated on a different level,” she says.
Born and brought up in Kenya, wildlife and nature were part of her life. After completing her degree in textiles at the University of Southampton she came back to Kenya and worked at a bronze foundry and gained experience in 3D. Her love for art and wildlife grew.
She left the foundry and started painting full-time, holding private exhibitions as well as commercial commissions. She then moved to the UK, still painting, but constantly travelled back to Kenya to get inspiration.
“I was twice short-listed for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the year award exhibiting at the Mall Galleries in London. It was after the success of these exhibitions that I ventured out to create a new platform for artists who share my passion and started wearable art, combining art with my love for textiles,” she says.
She says Mia Kora scarves are luxury items, they are feel-good accessories to be loved and worn as statement pieces.
There is no wrong way to wear a scarf but avoid lots of jewellery.
The two business partners are currently working on their eight collection. They had a Wellbeing Collection inspired by healing crystals. For each scarf, a buyer got a gemstone. Within months, the scarves were sold out.
Another collection Reteti was inspired by the works of Karen Laurence Rowe, a Kenyan artist whose work Mia Kora produces and 40 per cent of the proceeds go to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Namunyak, Samburu. There is also an exclusive 100 per cent cashmere collection every season with only 10 pieces for every design.
Their best-selling is the travel collection with scarves and shawls that feature designs and paintings from countries or cities around the world that inspire them.
“Wildlife, nature and travel liberates someone. It doesn’t matter where you go,” she says.
Mia Kora targets luxury buyers and their pieces can by worn by men and women.
They have presence in UK and Kenya with some of their stockists being Designing Africa Collective and Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Sarara Camp in Samburu, Watlings Gallery in UK, and Body Holiday and Rendezvous in St Lucia.
“We tell stories through scarves. Using the most luxurious of fabrics, we bring art and fashion together,” Ms Shah says.