Increasingly there has been a growing trend of young fashion aficionados using the power of online and social media to transform African fashion around the world. Ichyulu is a Kenyan online concept store that is collaborating with fashion entrepreneurs from around Africa. We had a brief discussion with them and asked how they got started, how fashion and style is changing in Nairobi and where they see the potential for African fashion online and offline.
Ichyulu.com is an online concept store offering selected edits from African designers. As a lover of African fashion, Ichyulu was set up to provide a platform that would connect designers with potential consumers and serve as an alternative distribution channel. Ichyulu’s focus is to provide a curated retail experience for those who seek unique pieces to match their individual style.
Designers stocked include Katungulu Mwendwa (Kenya), Jessica Claire (Kenya), Lalesso (Kenya), Chichia London (Tanzania), Nyumbani Design (Tanzania), Gloria Wavamunno (Uganda), Bestow Elan (Ghana/UK), Christie Brown (Ghana), Nkwo (Nigeria) and Pichulik (South Africa).
Ichyulu colloborated with Velma Rossa and Papa Petit of 2ManySiblings for the site’s first fashion campaign titled “Inside/Outside”. The campaign exclusively featured designers stocked on the site. Photography was by Migwa Nthigah of Magiq Lens Kenya and creative direction was by 2ManySiblings. I first shared several images I liked with 2ManySiblings including famous portrait imagery, the use of bright fabrics as backdrops as well as outdoors shots full of greenery. From there, 2ManySiblings scouted locations and styled each image. I was particularly keen to have 2ManySiblings take creative control of the campaign with a little guidance from myself. The outcome was wonderful.
Fashion and style in Nairobi is constantly changing and it’s great to see. You have the likes of Velma and Oliver of 2ManySiblings who are creating their own style narrative in Nairobi and it’s wonderful to see that individuality celebrated. You also have established bloggers such as Nancie Mwai whose style has evolved over the years and offers a glimpse into the growing fashion landscape. At the same time, you have a variety of fashion designers who are paving the way from Katungulu Mwendwa who interprets african art and traditions into modern cuts, Kepha Maina whose designs are influenced by architectural forms and Ami Doshi Shah whose jewellery in inspired by nature and architecture to create statement pieces.
Part of the ethos of Ichyulu is to celebrate the diversity of African fashion (for example, through showcasing the use of local materials, customs prints and craftmanship) and to collaborate with those who inhibit this space. For the launch of Ichyulu.com, Ichyulu collaborated with Christine Mhando of Chichia London and Arieta Mujay to produce a fashion art installation called “Kikulacho Ki Nguoni Mwako (What’s eating you is within your dress)” which explored Chichia’s London use of Khanga as a communication tool.