Colonial hangover + Unethical Pricing = Mediocrity
In 1964 Kenya began to enjoy freedom. However, today we still live in a haze of mental slavery. You see it with a server at the ‘upscale’ cafe who serves the foreign looking table with a speed and enthusiasm distinctly missing from the table with faces too close to their own. Or at ‘it’ pseudo intellectual gatherings where the foreign needle eye opinion is hailed as absolute by locals who should know better.The driving force behind Kenyan culture remains largely external and rarely self-determined.
So, when it comes to spending money, the average Kenyan will gravitate to foreign products to signal to the world their elevated social position. The general understanding is to be rich is to perform whiteness (or a perception of whiteness) to the best of one’s ability, because in the colonial system we still carry around, the highest class is white. The understanding of what whiteness is often gained through pop culture. Pop culture colors our reality from an early age, giving us a general understanding of how things work and again, the message is often white is right. It reinforces the colonial system still engraved in our mindset and if the understanding is white = rich then paying high prices for the items needed to achieve this whiteness, is the only logical way.
Amidst the mad dash to be just like the shiny white people we see in mainstream media no understanding is formed for the actions we mimic thus the reproduction is destitute. At the same time, the silent self-hate we inherited from our colonized forefathers has vandalized our self-confidence and allows us to accept mediocrity. Therefore no one demands improvement, progress is slow (if it exists at all) and the concept of price and quality get a little murky.
“It’s okay for Kenya”
“They are doing well for a Kenyan company”
“You know for Kenyan it is good”
“You have to remember this is Kenya”
~Said too often by a Kenyan
But what does all of this have to do with fashion?
As I have mentioned before there are many people involved in order to produce this thing we call fashion. And the person validating their efforts is the person buying the product. If the fashion product is consistently bought despite questionable quality then the entity as a whole suffers for it. For example attending and holding fashion shows solely as events for entertainment and not also for the eyes of fashion experts means everyone has good time but the clothes are never distributed to the general public (in other words it is not common place to walk into a name brand store and purchase a garment from a Kenyan design house). And the growth of the fashion industry lingers around a scene to be seen at.
We have an surplus of foreign apparel coming into the Kenyan market, which means we contribute to the international fashion industry without nurturing our own. When it is very possible to do both and have it so we are not just consumers of the international fashion industry but also direct contributors.
The solution is simple, we must love our-Kenyan-selves and be confident in our-Kenyan-selves . Exercise that confidence and love by learning and becoming a sophisticated buyer. Banish excuses that end or begin with ‘for Kenya’ for your conversations and do not be afraid to want and demand the best (or at the very least improvement). Like things because they are good and not because they are expensive. Invest in clothes that are beautifully made because you appreciate the artistry put into it and not because it kinda looks like something a Kardashian wore and/or the sales person promises it came from abroad.
Replace the self hate with self love, foster the understanding that Kenyans have incredible potential and demand it is realized.
Thanks for reading.
Stay fashionable xoxo.