After Eve won the award for Newspaper with the Best Fashion Segment at the Kenya Fashion Awards, many readers wanted to know what the awards were about. Lucy Robi sits down with the co-founders, Atman Ngau and Galina Tatarinova to find out what inspired the annual event, the highs and lows of the fashion industry and why they never give up.
How did you start Kenya Fashion Awards?
An ideal time had come and no one could have stopped it. It was about five years ago, We saw a gap in the industry. We thought people in the fashion industry had not been celebrated and decided to start this trend.
Five years ago, did you see a demand for local fashion?
Well, we saw the need and people were asking for it but not that much. For us, we were trying to bring about change.
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How has the change been since Kenya Fashion Awards started? Do you think the awards have played a big role with the demand of local fashion?
When we talk about fashion, we also have to include models, photographers, designers, fashion journalists, makeup artists and stylists. Since we started KFA, we have seen tremendous change in all aspects of fashion. I think people are now trying to up their game because the competition is getting tougher. If we compare some of the work done five years ago and today, you will see a major difference.
How has the journey been since you started Kenya Fashion Awards?
The industry is very tough, there is still a lot to tackle. There is a lot of division which sets us back. Models, photographers, designers… they’re all divided. It has been such a great challenge especially getting all these people together. However, it has been getting easier over the five years. People now are warming up to Kenya Fashion Awards.
How did you try and unite the models, photographers, designers and everyone in the industry?
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I think it’s because of what they have been seeing over the past few years. They are seeing people getting more platforms when they participate with KFA. I think people are realising that they need each other. Photographers can’t work without a designer; a designer cannot work without a model, we all need each other. If we are working on our own, then we won’t manage to get to the next level. If we work together, we all benefit together. This is the only way we can sell Kenya to the international market. Let us build the next fashion destination: Kenya.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the five years?
The biggest challenge is lack of financial support. Finance pushes everything forward. It makes everything run smoothly but this has been a major challenge. It’s been hard getting companies and corporates on board. However, this year, people are turning up.
Did you see the growth in 2017?
It is bigger than ever. We are celebrating five years and things are better than ever. We are seeing international brands coming on board. Others want to know what KFA is all about. Big brands like Canon, Moët & Chandon are now on board and part of the KFA. For example, Moët & Chandon is known to support a lot of international fashion events. However, they pick the brands they want to work with. We are raising the bar very high.
Do you think social media has played a big role with KFA?
I think it has. they have played a vital role in the growth of KFA. Social media has been our office. We have pushed ourselves through all social media avenues available.
How do you choose the people you nominate every year?
First, for one month, people can send their nominees in all aspects of the fashion industry. We call it a public nomination. KFA has an advisory board; they vet all the choices. There is a criteria that has to be met first before one is nominated. The advisory board goes through the list and the criteria and a nominee list is born.
Why did you want it to be a people’s choice award? Why make the public vote instead of just having judges?
We want to do something different. Our main aim is to create awareness. The only way to do this is to involve people. We want them to support local fashion.
How do you think we can better support our upcoming designers, stylists, models, photographers?
I think our market has not been ready for quite some time. Our institution needs to be supported by the government. We have gone to some of these institutions and we have seen that there is a lot that can be done. What they are being taught is sometimes not of international standards. The syllabus is not complete. There is something missing. KFA provides a platform for their brands to be seen. We are giving them hope that this industry is getting bigger and better. Globally, fashion is a big industry. We have hope here in Kenya. Statistically, it has been shown that the creative industry thrives the most and will survive the big digital change that has been happening for many years now. The potential is now in the creative areas.
What quotes do you live by?
The gift of the human being will always open a door and give you a way. Never give up, but always improve your skills. You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.