Design by Ada Nkatha. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Ada Nkatha, one of Kenya’s upcoming fashion young designers, started working from home before she opened a shop last year.

‘‘I was fortunate enough to have very supportive parents who allowed me to work from their house,’’ says the 30-year-old.

She graduated with a fashion design degree four years ago and is gradually creating a name in an industry that takes ages to gain recognition. She was among the few upcoming designers selected to showcase their clothes during the just concluded Kenya Fashion Awards NextGen.

This year’s challenge for the designers was to create avant-garde, evening and ready-to-wear designs. “It was the first time that my designs were showcased on the runway,” says Ms Nkatha who wants to create a name as a haute couture designer. Her models displayed free flowing gowns detailed with lace and gemstones, with rose halo’s crowns with sharp spikes coming from the crown to represent the rays of the sun.


“The collection was inspired by nature and sun that is setting. There is usually an array of beautiful colours in the sky from turquoise, the sky blue and I used flowers giving the image of one watching the sunset in a flower garden. So basically a garden in the sunset,” says Ms Nkatha.

One of her dresses on the runway was a white ball gown with lace detailed with hand-stitched roses that she says can be worn on a red carpet.

She says that many Kenyans still do not understand what couture is since the market is flooded with ready-to-wear outfits.

“Most local celebrities say they’ve worn couture on a red carpet but it is not couture. It is a dress bought off the rack,’’ she says.

She admits that making couture attire is time-consuming, expensive and requires creativity.

Most of the garments are custom-made and the detailing is done by hand. She has hired a tailor who does stitching.

‘‘I begin by sketching, cutting the fabric pattern, stitching and finally putting the details by embellishing with crystal stones, using lace appliqué or fabric manipulation,’’ she says.

A couture gown takes about three days to a month to complete depending on how intricate the design is.

“There are not too many couture designers in Kenya and I hope more people would start embracing it,” Ms Nkatha.

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