Local designs with international appeal

Models showcase Deepa Dosaja designs. PHOTO | COURTESY
Models showcase Deepa Dosaja designs. PHOTO | COURTESY 

For Deepa Dosaja, this is the best time to be a fashion designer in Kenya.

‘‘I think designers in Kenya have made it, we are now getting the recognition we were craving not only locally but also at international level,’’ says the director of Deepa Dosaja fashion house.

We met at her boutique shop in Nairobi’s Westlands where she is deeply immersed in a conversation with a client whose dress needed final touches. Two of her assistants are running around the shop with heaps of clothes in their hands— serving a number of customers.

‘‘Sorry I took long, Saturdays are one of our busiest days,’’ she says.

House of Deepa Dosaja formerly known as Va Bene Couture specialises in silk, linen, wool and cotton which she imports from Italy, India, Germany and France. She also has a special collection of stretch silk prints.

“I design the prints and to avoid a copied version of my work, I usually print on 20 meters of material that makes it limited edition. The stretch silk is a very comfortable material,” she says.

From the clothes on display, you can easily pick out the signature colour and patterns; that is hot pink and handstitched or embroidered flowers and butterflies.

Handstitched flowers

One of her best sellers is a trench coat with different messages to compliment the wearer.

“I always draw inspiration from nature, the colours of Africa and lately a lot of my inspiration comes from my spiritual journey. When I am designing I think of all the things I value, freedom, love, joy and I try to put them into my prints,” says the fashion graduate from Lasalle College in Montreal, Canada.

The butterflies in her designs signify transformation, she says.

Often, after launching a collection, she retreats to islands for meditation with a sketch pad and a pencil. One of her memorable moments was when she dressed actress Lupita Nyong’o last July. Lupita wore a pink trench coat and a pink skirt that had Deepa’s signature handstitched flowers.

International appeal

Her youngest son interrupts the interview.

“Mum where is my cape, you need to make it so that I am not late for the party,” says the six-year-old boy.

“I am sorry, he is supposed to go for his friend’s birthday party and I have to stitch his cape. He is going as a sorcerer, my son always demand that I saw most of his clothes and costumes,” Deepa says, adding that she is glad at how far she has grown in designing clothes.

‘‘I have clients all over the world. Customers tell me that they were in a meeting in New York and saw someone wearing my dress. It is so encouraging that my designs although locally made, have an international appeal,” she says.