Nairobi farce week

By Paul Omondi
Models on the runway during the 2014 FAFA event in Nairobi. Shows like FAFA always feel steeped more in the glitz and glamour of creative presentations rather than money in the bank of the designers. (Photo:Elvis Ogina/Standard)
Models on the runway during the 2014 FAFA event in Nairobi. Shows like FAFA always feel steeped more in the glitz and glamour of creative presentations rather than money in the bank of the designers. (Photo:Elvis Ogina/Standard)

There is fashion week and then there is a farce week. Sadly, the latter represents Nairobi’s pass off for a fashion week. Whereas for most of last week New York was bubbling with a money-spinning boost to the city’s economic rhythm, thanks to the biannual New York Fashion Week, our own charade of a similar event is so mediocre, it does not even deserve a footnote in the history of piffle. More than 230,000 people are estimated to attend the February and September shows that designers use to unveil the coming season’s collections. These fashion lovers pack hotels to the point of bunking up, and throng restaurants, yielding in excess of $532 million (Sh49 billion) in direct visitor spending, as estimated by the New York City Economic Development. If you add the big-spending by celebrity clients and lavish parties that go with the event, the New York Fashion Week injects about $887 million (Sh81 billion) to the New York City Economy. That is more than 50 times our national budget and can easily fund the pretence that Nairobi Fashion Week is ten million times! Nairobi Fashion Week, held last November, excelled in understatement; even guests at the hotel where it was hosted had no idea there was something going in the backroom the show was confined to. Besides venue payment and a deserted, overpriced cash bar, the economic impact of the event was nowhere near the contribution of a hawker doing the impossible run of lugging fruits and vegetables with a baby precariously strapped to the back in a dash to evade ruthless city askaris. Admittedly, I might be comparing a very big apple with a teensy-weensy orange in this case. But still, the very organisation of a fashion week in Nairobi is a tattered patchwork of how wrong things can go. No one talks about the event, and it does not even get a passing mention on a local fashion show on TV, probably because of the blinkered reasoning that it is sponsored by a rival media house. See Also: Paradise in our backyard Then, most, if not all the designers, are homegrown greenhorns whose otherwise valiant efforts at creativity still make the presentations feel more like a class project. Not even the talented Grace Makosewe, reputed for her avant-garde styling, could save Nairobi Fashion Week’s face with spot-on emceeing. But the biggest failure is that our fashion week is not transactional. It is like the organisers and designers are caught in a perilous journey, like the blind leading the drunk. It would be surprising if any sales above Sh10,000 were made at the show. You see, a fashion week is about business, not some impetuous plan by organisers to make money. If you cannot bring people together to do business, connect designers with buyers, then we could as well troop to the nearest flea market stall. This is the secret sauce in IMG Fashion’s success with fashion weeks all over the world that has seen Mercedes Benz come in as a title sponsor. Not surprisingly, IMG now has about 160 fashion weeks annually, including 15 significant ones like the New York, Istanbul, Beijing, Sydney and Moscow events. This calls for thorough. Even the plans must have plans. And success is not just about cloth sales, but credibility as well. It is why the New York Fashion Week features in popular TV shows like Sex and the City and ‘Smash — makes you wonder why our local fashion week can’t even be incorporated in third-rate productions.

Your are here » Home » Sunday Magazine Nairobi farce week By Paul Omondi Updated Sunday, February 22nd 2015 at 19:38 GMT +3 Share this story: Why is it that big names in the fashion industry like Ann McCreath, John Kaveke, Monica Kanari and Patricia Mbela or brands like Sura Zuri, Moo Cow Cow and Spice do not make the list in the Nairobi Fashion Week? On the other hand, shows like FAFA and the Tribal Chic, despite attracting the who-is-who in the industry and respectable designers, always feel steeped more in the glitz and glamour of creative presentations, rather than money in the bank for the designers. Is it that the industry is too fragmented or isolated in biased clusters? Only Tanzania’s Swahili Fashion Week seems to meet the cut and attracts designers from as far as Austria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Ghana, but surprisingly no Kenyan. The Tanzanian show attempts to offer an international platform for designers, and has attracted big names in sponsorship, such as Mercedes-Benz. Even though the fortunes for Nairobi Fashion Week are seemingly falling fast like a setting a sun, the opportunities are limitless …but only if the industry sews in the same direction. Who knows, with devolution, even the county government could prove to be a crucial partner. But for now, the patchiness of the whole affair is all the motivation you need to be off like a dirty shirt even before you present your ticket at the gate! —TWITTER: @omondipaul

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