More and more, I am coming across African fashion designers taking an ethical approach with the practice of fair trade and a desire to support their local community artisans. KikoRomeo, a Kenyan based fashion house is another great example of this.
With a desire to help create jobs in rural areas of Kenya and make unique, high quality contemporary clothing, Ann McCreath launched her own fashion house under the name “KikoRomeo”, which means “Adam’s apple” in Kiswahili. Hoping Kenyans would take pride in African-inspired contemporary fashion, and promote their economy through buying locally made fashion, she set about making ethically sound products with inputs from community artisans and women’s groups, which she retailed through her own shop.
McCreath who is originally from Scotland, sort of adopted Kenya as her second home when she did aid work there and completely fell in love with the continent. Now she is making great strides in bringing the talent that has been hidden inside Kenya for so many years to the global fashion market. The label offers couture, ready-to wear, fashion accessories, and sandals for women, men and kids. Each of the designs is contemporary fashion with an African twist – whether fabrics, buttons, decoration it is always inspired by the culture from the continent. There are strong elements of hand crafting achieved by working with community groups, artists and artisans. The loose weaves are hand woven in Kisumu, the hand and machine knits use Kenyan wools and cottons and are crafted by a Nairobi Women's Group. The silks are spun from Kenyan grown cocoons, woven, printed and dyed in Kenya by ICIPE (International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology). Their bags are woven from Kenyan Sisal by Machakos Women's Groups. Their beadwork is carried out by Maasai Women's Groups. Their buttons, thongs and trims, are made from Kenyan coconut, horn, bones and hides. A truly inspirational Kenyan package.
In 2008 Ann founded the Festival of African Fashion & Arts (FAFA), together with other arts and media professionals. Kenyan and Pan-African designers came together for the “Fashion for Peace” event in the Nairobi National Park. This has developed into an annual event and recognized platform for designers from Africa.