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Turning waste into fashionable items - meet Arline Kendi

She uses recycled materials to make fashionable items

Doing fashion differently and I don't mean differently by having a grunge or eclectic style, but different in the sense of making an impact in the society is what Arline Kendi is all about.

Arline, an Ecotourism & Hotel Management graduate from Chuka University always knew she wanted to use her environment studies background in future. When she could not secure a job, she decided to try out self employment by creating African Touch By Kendi, a company that solely focuses on sustainable fashion by making bags, bikinis and bodysuits as well as jewelry all made from upcycled materials.

At just 26 years old, Arline is on a pursuit of starting a fashion revolution in Kenya.

Pulse Live Kenya caught up with the stylish and soft spoken lady to find out more on her eco-fashion journey and here's how the interview went down.


Pulse Live: So tell me a little bit about youself. I saw that you're a blogger and fashion entrepreneur?

Arline: Yeah, my name is Arline Kendi, and I'm an entrepreneur and blogger. I wanted to start something new in Kenya and noticed that from my research, no one was really doing eco-fashion. Being an environmentalist, I wanted to merge what I studied, with my passion for fashion and that's when I started African Touch By Kendi which is all about sustainable fashion. Starting this business for me was also from a need to find my own identity.

Pulse Live: Take me through the process of making your clothes and jewelry. Are you the one who makes them?

Arline: So for the clothes, I source fabric cut offs from town which I patch up to make a big piece of fabric and from which I then make body suits and bikinis as well as some bags. I have a team of people that I work with because they know my needs. To be honest, they do most of the work but I'm pleased because I am able to give back to the community by creating employment to the less fortunate.

Pulse Live: Interesting, how about the jewelry?


Arline: For the jewelry, there are different designs. I make some using Kitenge fabric, while others are beaded. I also recycle used jewelry, fix the broken parts and resell them or give my designs to some women who then make the jewelry for me and I resell. Sometimes, I also buy jewelry from workshops in places like Kibera and resell to my clients. I felt there was no need to import things from china when I can collaborate with different people here in the country and create more job opportunities.

Pulse Live: Creative indeed. I see you have a following of over 10,000 on Instagram. How did you build your client base?

Arline: Most of my clients find me through my social media pages, I have an Instagram page, Facebook page and I also have my blog. Other times, it's through referrals. Also, when I wear some of my products, people approach me, curious to find out where they can find similar items.

Pulse Live: And how much are your products?

Arline: The prices are dependent on the product and level of customization but generally, anything from Ksh 500-5,000/- there about.


Pulse Live: So I'm curious Kendi, how can we get to be more sustainable when it comes to fashion?

Arline: Start with what you have. Start somewhere. If you have a closet full of clothes, get rid of what you do not wear by reselling or donating some of those clothes to charity and have a minimal wardrobe with only pieces you wear and find creative ways to style them.

Pulse Live: Help me understand, how does having many clothes affect the environment?

Arline: If you have many clothes, that means you love to shop, which means you will end up with many clothes that you do not wear or you'll never wear. If you throw them away, they will end up as landfill, which is one of the biggest forms of pollution. Also, this means that there are people somewhere working under so much pressure and in inhumane conditions thanks to companies such as Zara to sustain mass production of low quality clothes.

Pulse Live: I get you. In your opinion, what can Kenyans do to be more sustainable?


Arline: I think business owners and the Government need to do more. For example, restaurants need not insist on unnecessary things such as straws and plastic cups. They need to adopt creative ways that have worked in western countries. For example, coffee shops can give discounts to clients that bring their own take away coffee mugs. The Government can put up clean drinking water spots in different parts of the city to discourage citizens from buying bottled water. Also, Kenyans too need to have a sense of personal responsibility. Don't go around littering. A little personal effort to eradicate plastics will go a long way. These are not quick solutions but they can be a start.

Pulse Live: What are the future plans for African Touch By Kendi?

Arline: I cannot tell someone to be a sustainable person without offering solutions. Therefore, I want to start a clothing rental business for events. Think about it, when you buy a gown for an event, you end up probably never wearing it again right? So I want to start a business where you can just rent a dress for an event and return it after the event. I'm also thinking about starting a clothes swap kind of event where friends can converge and swap clothes or resell clothes they no longer wear to each other. In addition, on my website, I have plans to start a "Meet your maker" segment where my clients will get to meet the women and men who work hard to make the pieces I sell to them. I believe that there's so much more to fashion than what we wear. Have you ever sat back and wondered who made what you're wearing? See that's what I want to do, use fashion to make an impact in the society.

Pulse Live: Wow, that's quite something. Brilliant! Any advise to people reading this?

Arline: If you're looking to get into fashion and design, keep in mind that it's a very saturated market. You'll need to have something that sets you apart. What will you do differently to set you apart from all other models, designers and fashion bloggers out there? Are you even passionate about the industry? Find your niche.


Pulse Live: Advantages and disadvantages of your job?

Arline: The biggest advantage for me is that I get to make money doing what I love while impacting society and sustaining the environment. The biggest disadvantage is that sometimes I don't find enough fabric cut offs. Also, I'm competing with all the knock offs from China*light laugh*. A fake Chanel bag still looks good and most Kenyans would rather carry that than a Kiondo that's seen as less fashionable. In fact, most of the times, my clients are foreigners because to them, a sisal bag is something authentic and beautiful.

Pulse Live: Parting shot?

Arline: Keep pushing in whatever it is that you're undertaking. Sooner or later, you'll find success!

Pulse Live: Where can our readers find you?


Arline: On my Instagram page African Touch By Kendi and through my website.


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