DESIGN fashion

Interview with Fashion Designer Kelvis Makumi

Kelvis Makumi photographed in his studio

Bringing together bold, contemporary design and experimental form, Groom It Africa is a African fashion brand based in Nairobi. Interested in translating conceptualism into wearable products, Kelvis (the designer of Groom It Africa) is often inspired by paradox and enigma. He is also concerned with innovation and sustainability and often utilises unusual materials in his pieces. System speaks to Kelvis about his latest bag collection, design process and African fashion.

System *: this is your 2nd collection since you started out as a designer, what did you try to communicate with it and what was the thought process behind it?

Kelvis: I wanted to show a continuation to the first bag collection, consistency in what I’m doing. I’m here to stay. I was looking for a more approachable or should I say a more global design as far as design goes to increase my audience.

System *: Great! so what is it that inspires you about bags that you feel its the right or rather best medium to express yourself especially as a beginner ?

Kelvis: I guess I feel a connection with them. The designs are complex and easy at the same time which is so interesting, I learn something new in every bag I make. Plus it’s so satisfying making something that cuts through gender,creed and tribe. As a beginner,they good cause bags have become a necessity, most likely than not people carry bags. For that’s advertisement on a daily.

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Available at Designing Africa Collective.

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System *: So is the bags part of a ploy for you to create awareness of the existence of the brand, or is it making them because people need them or is it both ?

Kelvis: Both

System *: Tell us , who is your ideal client who are you targeting with your brand?

Kelvis: Those who wanna stand out and enjoys quality and exclusivity. I feel that’s what my brand is about. With the bags also comes a feeling of elevation

System *: Elevation, what do you mean by elevation?

Kelvis: My bags are bold. U being able to rock that makes u feel some typpa way.

System *: So Groom it Africa, how did you come up with that phrase or name and what does it mean?

Kelvis: Once I thought of what to name my brand ,it occurred to organically. Its divided into two parts, Groom It and Africa. Groom it means wear it /clean up (as expressed by the dapper few)and Africa is what I’m grooming plus the origin.

System *: What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?

Kelvis: It’s good for advertisements,spreading the word. Its good and crucial since it acts as the first platform “free” to young starters. It also informs and u can be aware of current trends and stuff but then u have to sieve all that does not fall under your principles and identity cause it can be misleading too.

System *: Misleading could you expound on that?

Kelvis: Being fed wrong information .Or being hard on yourself for no reason cause seeing someone else flexing on social media. Our timing is different.

System *: What is your favorite part about being a designer?

Kelvis: Its has to be teasing people with my hybrid thinking (I’m kidding) I’d saying finding solutions/innovating. And bringing happiness to people with my creations.

System *: Where do you find your inspiration when working on a project?

Kelvis: I’m reinventing my brand every day, it’s a continuous process making the product better. Nature,other creatives,life situations.

System *: Who inspires you in the fashion design realm?

Kelvis: Ozwald Boateng, Art Comes First ,Yamamoto,Gilbert Akinosho

System *: Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?

Kelvis: Only got one. Cole Deen .Best advice he gave me “Believe in yourself and perfect your craft .”

System *: What do you think is unique about African fashion?

Kelvis: Information pertaining the industry. No platforms for beginners. Getting the right fabrics can be tricky,they either not there or unavailable. Being used by the “big dogs” in the industry.

System *: Where do you think the industry will be in ten years and or whats you vision for the African fashion industry ?

Kevlis: In the next ten years, global brands will be doing run ways in Africa. That’s how much the industry will have grown.

System *: Where would you like your business to be in 20 years time?

Kelvis: My vision as Groom it Africa is to create a strong sustainable brand that can represent Africa on global stages.

System *: You use quite unusual materials in your collections, such as sisal ropes, why is this? Do you think it is important to source materials carefully?

Kelvis: Sisal ropes are relatable in all African countries. They tell an African story. And that’s me sourcing materials carefully. I found something people can relate to as a continent

System *: Perfect! Thanks for doing this man we appreciate , any last words you’d like to share with young creatives like you?

Kelvis: Do u and keep pushing. It all will be worth it in the end. Plus keep dreaming and working on your dreams.

This interview has been edited and condensed to make it short and precise for you.

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