Here’s a secret. Dressing nicely makes you feel good and feeling good gives you the confidence to do and achieve more. As young millennials, we value looking our best because boujiee and chic right?
Whitney Nasanga is a young Kenyan fashion designer who’s in the business of making us look and feel good. She runs the African print luxury line, El_Afrique. She is a bubbly personality who has been featured in Couture Africa magazine, has designed beautiful pieces for the likes of Wangechi the rapper to Le Band, to partnering with major brands such as Belaire. Her incredible creativity and boldness keep flaring up.
She got to unpack her journey for us in this interview.
How did you come up with the name El_Afrique?
It’s actually a very funny story. I was doing French at the time and I really liked the subject. El Afrique is supposed to mean ‘The Africa’ because it’s an African print line. But, it turns out ‘El’ is Spanish. So it’s a combination of Spanish ‘El’ and French ‘Afrique’. By the time I was starting the business I had stuck to the name which is very unique.
What motivated you to start the line and how did it all come together?
I’ve always been into fashion that’s for certain. What made me start my line is because of my bubbly personality seeing as I am attracted to colour. I had seen a piece of pants that my friend had and they were all African print and I liked them. I asked around where I could get that exact material, I then looked for a tailor who would bring the design to life and voila. So I wore the pants I had made and I was walking around in Yaya Centre and someone asked me where I got the pants and I told them I’m the one who actually made them. Just like that, they ordered like a bunch. It dawned on me that I could turn this into a business and I followed through with it.
What sets El_Afrique apart from other brands?
We keep up with the trends; what’s popping, what’s nice, the best materials to use. We are also all-rounded, that is, we don’t only stick to African prints. We use a range of materials, from satin, silk to cotton. The team also work with clients to bring a design to life.
What excites you about fashion?
How the pieces fit. How one piece would look on a curvy girl, how it would look on another so it’s mostly how fashion pieces make one look.
Who do you think are easier to dress; men or women?
Men are so much easier to dress.
Which materials do you use when researching on fashion trends?
Mostly YouTube. I search on fashion topics and I see how designers from other countries put together their looks. I also watch a lot of Anna Wintour and Vogue documentaries as well as what both local and international celebrities are wearing.
How do you handle the challenges that come with being a designer?
It’s not easy. Some clients are very specific and putting together such looks can take a while and a strain. I’ve also come to learn that you can’t accept all orders and hence I only accept what I have the capacity for and when the timelines can allow me to accept them.
A forecast of future trends in 2018?
We might still have the off-shoulder pieces trending but with more sophistication with say ruffles as part of the detailing.
Your first celebrity client?
Wangechi the rapper. But I’ve also had Le Band rocking most of my pieces.
What’s next for your brand?
I want it to go international and reach markets such as the United States and even the UK. I also want it to grow into a luxury brand.
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The biggest piece of advice you wish you had received when starting out?
It would just have been, it’s never that serious. Don’t take it to the heart to the point where you only follow results. Just take it one step at a time because you learn along the way.
When do we expect your next line?
My next collection will be around June.