Carole Kinoti has always used her hands. Made things. Created things.
She ended up in the kitchen after a course in catering, because she liked making food, but in an artistic ornamental way.
Then fate dragged her into retail and fashion, where for close to 15 years she ran her brand, Lacasa Designs, a made-to-wear concept, before rebranding to Carole Kinoti (CK) Collections under the Carole Kinoti brands, a ready-made outfitters.
JACKSON BIKO met her at her office on Marcus Garvey Road, where she was with her 16-year old daughter, Joy, who is about to join The African Leadership Academy.
Joy, now that you are here, you might as well ask your mom the first question. And nothing corny or cliche.
Joy: [Laughs] Okay. Who is Carole Kinoti?
(Chuckles) What you see is what you get. And I have a way of getting who I am into what I do. I'm a fashion designer, I'm a creative basically, and I'm a creative who intends to become a successful entrepreneur in the fashion industry or in the creative industry, I'd say that. So I'm a business woman, and then I'm a mother of two lovely children, Joy who is 16 and Philip who is 14 years old now. I'm married to Mr Martin Kinoti, he's also a businessman.
When did you first notice your creative streak coming out?
High school. I loved to cook, I loved to entertain, I loved to make hair, everything that involves my hand, and everything that involves putting something together from zero to, and not just cooking but creative cooking. After high school I trained in F&B then did hairdressing which I also loved quite a bit. Then I started a business of tailoring which led me to do a fashion course later in life. That's when I realised my interest is not so much on food, or hair, or clothes. It's creativity in general.
When were you most creative in life and what areas?
Nobody has ever asked me that question. But I think now.
Joy: I agree. She seems more passionate now. I have never seen her this passionate.
It’s because you've grown up now and given me space to do what it is that I like to do. Philip is 14, she's (Joy) 16. So that's one of the answers. The other answer is as artists most of us are driven by the passion and not so much the business. And three years ago I went back to college to do the owner manager programme which teaches you how to separate yourself from the business. I decided then that I'm going to separate my artistic side from the business side.
Having designed bridal wear, would you change something on your wedding dress now?
I got tired. It was too bulky. It was too bulky because I got married 21 years ago and I wanted a princess Diana looking-like dress. My trail was there, you know. My high heels, I couldn't even walk in them. So how would I change it? I'd keep it very clean and simple. And know that this could look nice but it's too much work to carry it out the whole day.
What do you fear most for Joy?
(Pause) Wow. Lack of independence. I look at what it is that I went through and try and make sure that she does not have to deal with that by learning better and knowing better now. And my kids they're not lucky; they've had to do business courses, in fact she's actually already registering her own business now. So that's how we've prepped her for the African Leadership Academy, my son is going through the same. My biggest fear is that I don't want her to be in a situation where she has to depend on someone else to solve things for it to work.
What fears do you have for your mom, Joy?
[Joy]: Loneliness. (Chuckles). She has a tendency to believe that she doesn't need other people aside from her family. She has a sort of perception that aside from the three of us and herself, she can be okay without interaction. She doesn't fight for friendships, she easily lets them go because she feels like she's comfortable on her own. Which is not true. It's not a good mindset. And I fear that she will be lonely when we leave the house and start a life of our own. Because we are growing older now and will want to do things for ourselves.
If you had one super power what would that be?
To be able to tell the future.I fear regrets. That's my biggest fear actually. That is why I go over things for so long. That's why I prepare so much to make sure nothing goes wrong. So if there was a way I was sure I could tell how the future would be, maybe I'd sleep better.
What's your regret now?
Right now? Nothing. I'll tell you why. Because I am doing a lot of things. There's a time I thought I regretted not putting a lot of what I'm doing in the business now, but that's the time I buried my head with my kids. By the time I did 10 years I suffered a burnout. Looking at the business in a broader way takes a lot more of my time and away from my kids. And they are grown up now; I feel like I'm doing this at the right time. So that fear that maybe I should have done this earlier, priceless, I think I'm glad.
I am using the experience that I put in, like I learnt those years to put in Mavazi Elevate Program. This is a programme that addresses the challenges fashion designers face like production, distribution, marketing and training.So there's no regrets. I'm actually quite happy.
You're a mother, you're a wife, you run a business, you're a creative. What's that one thing you latch on as a definition of Carol?
A mother. It's a big deal for me because I have seen people succeed in all those other things but seem so unhappy. I'm not saying I've got control to what happens to my children, but I know I've done my best. I gave it all that was required to be done. So for me if I find happiness within there as a mother then the rest are within this world. I can handle.