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Kenyan designer Omina Otsieno selected for international fashion campaign

Not many know what they want to practice professionally when they grow up but designer Omina Otsieno knew that she wanted to be in the creative industry.

Since her early days as a young girl, she would create dolls from clay, plait their hair and crochet dresses for them from yarn. She picked this up from her mother who used to crochet a lot and her grandparents who weaved traditional hand-woven baskets to earn some income. This creative expression laid the foundation for her brand.

But despite her conviction in knowing what she wanted, it is not till 2019 when she was able to venture into the fashion industry. Ms Otsieno was among designers selected to take part in a fashion program hosted by International Trade Centre.

“The programme run from January to December and during that period our mentor was renowned designer Ann McCreath. Each designer was to present their portfolio and for me since I love creating I had portfolios including rustic furniture, clothes, jewellery. When she saw the jewellery she loved it and she advised me to focus on jewellery,” Ms Otsieno said.

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“At the end of, the program there was ain n exhibition in which I showcased some of my designs which were meant to be launched later.  But then the year 2020 Covid-19 happened and I had to postpone to 2021,” she said.

And since then she has been working hard to have her footprint in the fashion world focused on three main areas of sustainable development, which include gender equality, industry, innovation, infrastructure and Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Sylvia Omina Otsieno founder and creative director of Omina Otsieno Designs in Nairobi on November 5, 2022. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT

“We adopted a circular business model in our contribution towards safeguarding the environment. We make jewellery from banana fiber extracted from the banana stem. The process of our production begins right from harvesting of the stem, extraction of the fiber to weaving the jewellery. This ended up opening opportunities for women in Busia as well as farmers for their economic empowerment.  We train them in the banana fiber jewellery making process, we also work with artisans in Nairobi with whom we collaborate to co-create brass accessories that we use to finish the jewellery,” she explained.

“Cultural traditional craftsmanship like basket weaving using natural resources have existed in many parts of Kenya from generation to generation and Busia is no exception, unfortunately, these valuable sustainable processes are diminishing. In our attempt to restore them, we are encouraging the continuation of these practices by using them as inspiration for our jewellery. Every piece of the jewelry we make is unique, timeless and tells a story; the weaves and twists of each piece are inspired by the culture and lifestyle of basket weaving and crafts of the Marachi people, and by so doing we are helping restore the culture by re-purposing this craftsmanship,” she said.

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Her work is now attracting global recognition. She is among two African designers selected to take part in the Fashion Impact Fund #FashionGives campaign scheduled for November 29 in Ney York.

The #FashionGives campaign is aimed to support the Fashion Impact Fund’s mission to provide grants to female founders leading sustainable solutions in fashion.

Selected designers will donate a percentage of sales proceeds to the charitable organization. Other designers and brands taking part in the campaign include Arte Facta, Emm Kuo, Gifting Brands, Hexed, Komodo, Lunar, Marita Moreno, Maqu, Moi Namaste, One Less, Patricia Govea, Prota Fiori, Releve Fashion, Snide London, The Canvas, The Narativ, and Thomas Royall.

“I am grateful for #FashionGives partners who are committed to our mission to accelerate women’s economic empowerment and leadership as female founders in fashion are trailblazing initiatives that are addressing the critical issues of our time. Thank you to GivingTuesday for highlighting #FashionGivesas a key campaign and understanding that fashion plays a critical role in achieving a sustainable future,” Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director, of Fashion Impact Fund, said.

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