African Designers for Tomorrow: Katungulu Mwendwa explains Nairobi style

Last week we announced our exciting new collaboration with FA254, creators of the African Designers for Tomorrow competition that celebrates contemporary Africa’s design richness and creativity. As a proud partner and sponsor of the competition’s Home Decoration category, we’re pleased today to introduce you to one of our three finalists Katungulu Mwendwa. After studying fashion design as an undergraduate, Katungulu created her namesake label in 2012. She was chosen to showcase her work at the GenArt Fresh Faces Fashion show during New York Fashion Week in September 2013, successfully showcasing her Spring/Summer 2013 collection named sandstorm – the journey of a challenged nomad part two. Currently based in Nairobi, this young designer is one to watch. Nairobian designer Katungulu Mwendwa

As one of three Home Decoration Finalists, what are you designing for the competition and how does this differ from your work as a fashion designer?

It’s very similar in many ways from design realisation, concept development, and construction processes (in some cases). What varies is that I am no longer focusing on the human form but spaces, which is pretty awesome, I have to say! I've have had tons of fun experimenting and trying out various techniques that can be implemented in fashion as well.

What is special or representative about Nairobian design? How do combine these elements with what you have learnt while showcasing your work in New York and other locations outside Nairobi?

Nairobian design is pretty cool, it’s a culmination of various cultures and peoples backgrounds and experiences in an urban setting. It’s one of those places where anything can happen at any point, and therefore one must be open-minded and therefore creative and quick thinking. Growing up and living in this ever evolving Nairobi has prepared me for anything, reflecting in my design aesthetic. Design here varies, as a result of our eclectic setting and so I feel it can be pleasing both within our borders and outside. Showing my work abroad is exciting because I get to experience a different environment to my own, adding to my experiences and who I am as a designer and as a result widening my design influence.

Your mood board “People of Taboo” features stunning imagery of Wodaabe people. Tell us how this small subgroup of the Fulani ethnic group influences your creative vision for this project?

I first saw an image of the Wodaabe men making faces during the Geerwol Ceremony in their attempts at getting a wife and I thought that was the funniest but most brilliant thing ever (which woman doesn’t like a good laugh?), this of course led me to explore the culture further. I loved their use of colour in face art, together with the Jabo that the women wore on their feet to signify wealth. The form of the humongous anklet was unusual and so of course I found it fascinating, mostly because I wanted one. I loved its organic feel in that no Jabo was perfectly symmetrical and so I found myself playing around with it.

FA254 founder Waridi Schrobsdorff says her vision for the project is to change people’s minds about Africa, while celebrating contemporary African richness and creativity. What is it you hope to change in people’s minds and achieve by participating?

There is no limit to African design and it must not be seen as a category.