Heya guys! Today’s post is a pretty special one. Anyone want to hazard a guess why? Yes, the featured photo probably tells it all. We have Joel Meshak featuring on the blog. Whoop! Whoop! If you didn’t know already, Kenyan Belle doesn’t just feature the female youth of Kenya, the other half has a whole load of talent to share too; as evidenced by the interview below. Enjoy! 🙂
KB: Heya Joel! How are you doing? Tell us a bit about yourself.
J: Hi, WOW where to start, anyway so I was born in a villa…ha ha just kidding. Basically, I’m a 20 year old Kenyan, currently going into my final year at the University of Manchester where I’m doing a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, Finance and Economics. It’s safe to say I’m a creative who grew up thinking he’d do engineering (story of half of the Kenyan youth). Other than fashion, which was a recently discovered interest, I am also passionate about football and business.
KB: You are the founder and owner of Naivaa yes? Tell us a bit about it. Such as how the idea began, the story behind the name, where interested customers can contact you, etc.
J: I am currently the sole proprietor of the clothing brand, Naivaa. It’s a bit of a funny story how it all came about. It all started when my Grandmother got me this tailor-made shirt with this multi-coloured Kente fabric stitched on it. Fine, It was quite ‘edgy’ but undeniably old-school so I thought, “Why not make a hoodie with similar African print?” I wanted something authentic and Kenyan. I then experimented with different fabrics and voila! My first piece was a cotton material with a red floral design stitched onto the front pocket and hood of a grey hoodie —what ended up becoming the first of many Naivaa pieces. As for the name, I incorporated Swahili (Naivaa means “i am wearing it”) into it and referred to Nairobi “Nai” as well, to show that the apparel is giving an identity to the City in a fashion sense. Although we do not have an establishment yet, I am proud to say that potential customers can now visit the website here and shop for available products here. You can also find us on Instagram.
KB: Do you mind sharing your creative process when it comes to getting new designs and ideas? How do you get out of designer’s block, if there’s such a thing- haha!
J: Looking at Naivaa apparel you will notice that I try to integrate aspects of urban wear (hoodies and shirts with pockets) with African fabric to create pieces that are mostly inspired by both lesos – worn by african ladies – and high-end tailored Ankara suits. So my goal is to keep producing pieces that meet halfway between these two extremes. I can’t really say I’ve experienced a total block before but I must admit it’s difficult to choose material that will blend well with the hoodie colours and still appeal to a wide spectrum of people (as i try to make clothes that appeal to both sexes and people of all ages).
KB: What are your long term goals if any? Where do you see Naivaa in 5, 10 years?
J: Hopefully, with the right people around me, I will be able to diversify beyond hoodies and venture into denim jackets (whose concept is already available), custom shoes, shirts, crop-tops for the ladies and many more articles of clothing in the near future. Ideally, I would like Naivaa to transcend fashion and be more than just a brand. I envision it reaching a point where proceeds from sales will be used in the betterment of the community through charity foundations within the country and eventually, Africa at large (who knows?). I’d also like to change people’s perspective on African inspired apparel while at it. I would like to be in a position where I can empower the youth by starting tailoring workshops and work with young talented aspiring designers, photographers and curators as I feel everyone should have an opportunity to flourish.
KB: Wow! Impressive, I think we could all take a note from that. Lastly, any words of advice for youth out there who want to venture into clothing design or entrepreneurship in general?
J: Honestly, I’m learning on the job. If you told me two years ago that I’d have a clothing line I’d rubbish those claims as it seems scary and overwhelming at the start. It all starts with that “idea” then the rest involves a lot of gut feeling decisions, mishaps and accidental genius eureka moments that lead to opportunities and beautiful creations. My philosophy is “just risk it”, the worst that can happen is that you’re told NO or you fail and really, there’s no creativity and innovation without failure. Period. (Brené Brown)
KB: Thank you! Keep up the great work! I’m sure the readers can’t wait to get on your website and start purchasing these awesome items. Happy shopping-haha!
All hoodies worn are from Naivaa.
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— Ivy xx