It was in the Jericho Estate, a working-class neighborhood in the Eastlands suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, that a teenage Clint Malik and Moh McKenzie began their first style collective—a group of neighborhood boys with a shared love of fashion. They exchanged ideas, talked designers—Ralph Lauren, a favorite—trends, and art. They shared a dream of one day breaking into an industry that would allow them to surpass the blue collar jobs they were expected to pursue in their hometown. Today, Malik and McKenzie, now aged 21 and 20, respectively, are paving their own path as an eccentric street style duo to watch on social media.
Earlier this year with the help of their photographer friend Brenon Ochieng Ooro, they started incorporating everyday objects, little relics found around their suburb, into their street style photos on Instagram. Clothespins hang from thrifted trenchcoat pockets and broken mirror shards are fastened to sunglasses with string. Tailor’s measuring tape and playing cards are safety-pinned onto everything from traditional Kenyan robes to hand-painted jeans and captioned #MadeInKenya. “We use objects related to our culture, like matchsticks, brooms, handmade handbags,” says Malik, whose chokers, adorned with cigarettes and playing cards, have become his signature.
There’s certainly an element of Afrofuturism in their ensembles, an observation that isn’t lost on either of them. The aesthetic, which infuses science fiction into the myriad cultures of the African Diaspora, has experienced a resurgence of late: from the pierced bantu knots and floating cars on Janelle Monae’s visual album Dirty Computer to the blockbuster superhero film Black Panther. “That movie meant so much to us,” says Malik. The fictional city of Wakanda is located in northern Kenya, after all. “It’s showing what Africa has to offer in all aspects of life.” They hope that the political and cultural undertones in the film shine a light on the creative movements already taking shape in Nairobi.
Tory appeared September 5, 2018 on Vogue by Nia Porter