Kenya Fashion Awards was launched at the prestigious Heron Portico Hotel on Saturday 11 th June. All the who’s who in the fashion and showbiz industry were in attendance with the likes of Vaishali Morjaria, Carol Odero, Pat Lulu Mbela, Ruth Kinuthia, Galina Tatrinova and Letoya Johnstone.
This was the 4th edition of the awards and the official unveiling of the nominees list for 2016.
Here is a copy of Carol Odero’s riveting speech that got people talking:
“Last year when I won my KFA Media Personality of the Year award for the 2nd year in a row, I, didn’t know how to feel. I accepted my trophy, made a short, totally impromptu speech thanking Kenyans for being engaged with fashion and of course my Fashion Watch co-hosts and column readers. Then I stuck around and let myself get congratulated, did a few interviews – because that is how an award dance goes.
But really, all I wanted to do, was take off my shoes …..
Once I got home I did what anyone in social media instinctively does. I looked for the most well lit space, took pictures and posted on Instagram. As I stood there I finally understood what it was that I was feeling.
I was feeling rather depressed. Here I had this beautiful, shiny trophy. If you saw last year’s trophy you know what I mean. But the flip side, one I saw so clearly I wondered why no one was being blinded by it, was how acutely aware I was that this industry, this fashion industry I had been participating in and documenting for a decade, was chasing its tail. There was also a lot of hype.
Granted, more parents now allow their children to pursue fashion as a legitimate career. There were new aspects to the industry being discovered with emerging photographers, stylists, bloggers, designers, models, hair and makeup artistes. Instead, there was the gloss and glamour covering up the truth – which was this – that I was asked everywhere I turned. Where is the money? Where is the money Carol, where is the money? What am I doing wrong? Where is the money?
The answer is – I don’t know.
What I did know was there was so much ground to cover. So much work to do. So many possibilities we had not even begun to see because the car is stuck on showbiz gear. It seemed to me we forgot fashion is an industry, built, as it were, the way any other industry is built. That it takes really hard work. That it is messy, it gets dirty and can be downright disgusting. That the praise comes after the labour. That change does not visit a scattered community struggling to speak with one voice. That does not seem sure what it wants to say, what to ask for, who it is.
I could tell you how Africa is the next frontier. How luxury is waiting just around the corner because we are already doing that for Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney. Something that employs what, about 100 people?
This is why I am calling on the established designers, the ones who have been in the industry for the past 15 to 20 years, the pioneers. Never forget that your input is invaluable, your wisdom desperately needed.
I am calling on the young talent to put aside a hunger for recognition, money and fame and instead embrace the responsibility and joy of following a passion, making something meaningful through hard work. I am calling on all of us to find a way to work together so that we can have one voice that we can use strategically as an industry to get what we need when we pay a visit to the government. I am calling on creatives to understand that there is a business side to fashion. The part that puts food on the table not just for you, but for another family as well. It is time we realized we have more power to change the industry than we have ever allowed ourselves to contemplate.
Yes, money isn’t everything. This is true. So let’s think about legacy. What will be said of us when we are no longer here? What will our contribution have been? How many lives will we have changed? Incase you’re wondering how, I assure you, fashion still constitutes a very basic need – because no one leaves the house naked. For the industry to grow, we have to start thinking. Think harder, think smarter, think strategically, think innovatively, think Kenyan, think African, think global. We cannot afford to fritter our energy when the entire world is a rival for our affections. We are no longer a small pool. Everyone has access to everything. If we want to be great, and obviously we do, we need a groundswell. That can only happen when we build each other from the ground up, collectively and as a community.
The next time someone gets a nomination or takes home an award, they should not just go home with pride. They should carry with them solid prospects. That they are part of a big, supportive family. That there is more to come. That this is just one rung of their success ladder. That society values their contribution beyond one night. That there will be work. And that it will be consistent, fruitful and substantial. That what they do matters. That they too, are playing their part in building the nation.
If you are a fashion designer, did that speech inspire you to do more in the industry? Share your thoughts below.