How Janerose fights fakes through genuine, authentically African products

BY LANJI OUKO Afrikan Kouture, derived from the French word ‘Haute Couture’, was coined to discover and embrace the rise of African fashion. For years, the use of African fabric was only common in West African countries and specifically worn during funerals and wedding ceremonies, but the reign of Ankara promoted the Afrikan Kouture revolution. In the fashion industry, Haute Couture refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions. In countries such as France, only brands that meet certain criteria are permitted to use the term Haute Couture, which symbolizes exclusive, made-to-order, for a specific customer, usually of high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish. The methods often require time-consuming and hand-executed techniques. Unlike in France, Kenya’s use of the term haute couture is not protected by law, neither is it protected by the Chamber of commerce. Locally, there are no restrictions about earning the right to call a brand a couture house in Kenya, Contrary to the actual views of African women, every lady should be striving to be seen wearing Afrikan Kouture however, this isn’t the case. Why don’t we take pride in adorning our own designer’s creations as opposed to wearing European designer knock offs? What a bitter pill to swallow to admit to this gruesome truth; that a woman would rather carry a fake Chanel handbag than purchase a genuine, authentically African handbag. So, what is the exact issue with African accessories? Critics in the past have claimed that the kitenge fabric is common and would rather not be spotted with what is termed as “Kenya Uniform”. Others detest the finishing of African tailors sensitizing the need to be neat. Using each one of these complaints, Jagari Designs was established to ensure quality and introduce authentic handbags into the market to suit any occasions, casual or formal, and even the niche market of college and school bags using sophisticated fabric both imported and sourced locally. janerose-gatobuJanerose Gatobu, the Creative Director at Jagari Designs encourages the younger generation to embrace their culture, which sparked her latest line of college bags, iPad cases and laptop bags that are commonly used by the younger generations. For years, designer couture handbags, which have made headlines and dominated the markets, have been American or European lines such as Hermes and Birkin that retail at almost $5000. The youth look up to these bags yet they can boost their very own local fashion industries in a similar manner. Very few companies in Nairobi have incorporated the fashion business model of design, made-to-order for private clients. Jagari designs therefore took the concept and made a run for it. Being one of the few Kitenge bag companies in the market, the brand has positioned themselves to cater for a wide variety of occasions running from traveling bags, day-to-day bags, office bags, laptop and iPad bags and even a back to school collection. Having completed high school at Limuru girls, Janerose, 25, pursued fashion & design at University of Nairobi and has never looked back since. Very few designers locally draw their own sketches and she takes pride in each sketch she personally completes for her clients. With Sh50, 000, she started the bag company using tailors from Kenyatta Market, which, she admits, was a trial and error process that later “flopped” due to poor fabric quality. After increasing her initial capital, she then outsourced fabric, changed tailors and the rest is fashionable history. Influenced by Africa’s rich culture and colors, the 25-year-old lady decided to use African prints, leather and a plethora of other materials with a contemporary edge. Each piece represents perfect individuality and style with key attention to detail. With inspiration drawn from everywhere, every piece is a unique, classic design made for fashion lovers of all ages. Fashion has always been Janerose’s first love. “I style it, watch it, photograph it, and write about it. In fact I live and breathe fashion. It’s my release from realities of life. For some reason, I particularly love accessories.” Many of the leather pieces are unique, one-off designs from rare leather bought locally or sourced from abroad. The unique bespoke pieces are ordered in advance and sketches drawn up, prior to the client’s approval, a process said to be exciting to most female clients, the fruition of a local Kouture handbag. The infusion of Ankara fabric or kitenge was the most fundamental aspect to stand out from just any handbag. Conventionally, Kitenge was only worn on the waist however modern Africans have managed to infuse the fabric on everything, from furniture to accessories and, recently, it has even been used for automotive interiors. What a bitter pill to swallow to admit to this gruesome truth; that a woman would rather carry a fake Chanel handbag than purchase a genuine, authentically African handbag.

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