Jessica Maina and her business partner, fashion designer Katungulu Mwendwa, are the co-owners of The Urban African Lifestyle Company which curates innovative African brands that embrace contemporary African designs associated with clothing, accessories and home decor.
The Urban African Lifestyle Company, based in Nairobi, Kenya, strives to work with passionate individuals in need of a platform to communicate their talents to the general public. The goal is to provide consumers with the opportunity to interact with a cross-selection of the best local designers have to offer. The Urban African Lifestyle Company showcases innovative and influential African brands in a curated, “high-end” retail space, providing Kenyan-based consumers the opportunity to interact with a cross-section of the best in local design. We spoke with co-founder Jessica Maina about her love of fashion.
What do you love about Fashion?
When I was a kid, fashion was used as a way for me to escape. I used it as a way to create my own fairytale universe. I used to make clothes for my Barbie dolls and myself. They were a major attribute to creating my place of zen. As I got older I learned that it was an art, but an art that one wears on a daily basis. One can interpret fashion however they may want to, but my absolute favourite thing about fashion is that it’s always traced back to an event in history. Whether it may be the Burberry jacket that is a product of the English army, or recent couture collections that were influenced by the Renaissance. Fashion has a way of storytelling using fabrics and designs. Same as literature; there is romance, horror and tragedy in fashion. Every garment has a narrative. From the fabric, the stitching to the sill letters. When someone says a piece doesn’t make sense, I beg to differ and enjoy to challenge.
How does that love manifest itself in your work?
Currently, I would call myself a purveyor of fashion. I am helping local designers share their narrative with the world. I am veering away from the traditional perceptions of “African” fashion and showing others that we too can produce quality products that translate to different cultures, but can still tell a uniquely superb narrative that soon we will be able to write history for future designers to come.
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