A group of young professional designers of Kitenge materials based in Nakuru city are determined to change the popular competing views of some fond, others scathing, by stitching eye-catching and comfortable clothes from the African prints materials.
The leader of the group Sharon Njeri said while the elderly and especially church women or ‘wamama wa kanisa’ were doting on the kitenge dresses, the younger women were contemptuous of the prevalent designs.
Speaking during a display of their designs at their marketing tents in the City centre, Njeri said for a long time, the stitching of the kitenge dresses was mainly done by male tailors who didn’t seem to care about feedback from their customers. Hence, they continued tailoring boring and heavy kitenges that didn’t appeal to the younger generation.
“As a young girl, my mother dressed me in a heavy kitenge dress with a cotton material lining and ensured that l wore a petticoat! Naturally, l looked like an overloaded wheelbarrow, and without doubt hated it, but I had no choice,” says Njeri.
However, she said during her design training, she was amazed at how versatile the kitenge material was, and that it could easily be moulded into countless fashions, unlike other materials, which are limited to the number of patterns they could accommodate.
Moreover, she said, she started noting that even African leaders were tossing away the popular colonial suits for the flowery kitenge shirts and she realized the market was responsive and ready for more and more patterns of kitenge attires.
Njeri said since they opened their tailoring shop in Nakuru, the demand for clothes was amazing and more so from the local church choirs who tended to prefer the widespread African prints.
She urged schools to consider introducing kitenge uniforms instead of the common plain colours of blue, green, brown and maroon.
She added that instead of nursery and primary school pupils wearing the white shirts that appeared brown and dirty as they left schools in the afternoons, kitenge shirts were a better option.
Apart from that, she said kitenge uniforms could easily be printed and pass important messages to the public and students such as, “I am a schoolgirl, and not yet ready to be a mother, please protect me instead of trapping me,” she said.