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Nairobi culture and fashion hits global stage virtually

By Paul Wafula | Published Fri, June 16th 2017 at 00:00, Updated June 15th 2017 at 23:58 GMT +3
Models showcase fashion made from the African textiles at the launch of a virtual exhibition at the African Heritage House in Nairobi Courtesy]

Nairobi fashion and culture has received a new window to sit side by side with global brands at the international fashion table after a new virtual exhibition was launched. Launched in partnership with search engine firm Google and a few local partners, the virtual exhibition will allow private collections of African art, crafts, textiles, books, documents and fashion to be presented to the global audience.

The platform will give fashion designers and collectors a chance to showcase their products in 3D to an international audience alongside more than 180 renowned cultural institutions from New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and São Paulo, among others. One of the early beneficiaries of the platform is the African Heritage House, a Gallery established by Kenya’s former Vice president Joseph Murumbi and culture icon Alan Donovan in 1972.

Traditional African textiles and costumes by African Heritage House are now available online as part of the global exhibition that opened early this week.

Unlimited access

“The Google Arts & Culture platform will provide unlimited access to our world class collection of African artifacts through 3D technology providing an outstanding experience to online visitors,” Alan Donovan, founder and director of African Heritage House said during the launch of the platform this week in Nairobi.

The African Heritage House is a magnificent structure that draws inspiration from Swahili architecture and ‘vanishing’ mud construction techniques from West Africa and was gazetted as National Monument by the Kenyan government in 2015.

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The House is world’s largest private collection of African art, crafts, textiles, books and documents. The institution has played a pivotal role in preservation and promotion of different aspects of African Culture including handwoven and hand printed African textiles, African music, jewellery and interior design. The other players who are set to reap from beneficiary is the Mcensal School of Fashion, a fashion college in Kenya.

Backers of the project say the virtual exhibition will bring together 3000 years of the world’s fashion under the “We wear culture” project by Google Arts & Culture that is a collaboration with African Heritage House and Mcensal School of Fashion.


Using state-of-the-art technology, the project allows you to explore everything from the ancient Silk Road, through the courtly fashions of Versailles, to British punk and the stories behind the clothes you wear today.

Also on showcase are iconic pieces that changed the way generations dressed, such as Marilyn Monroe’s high heels or the Black Dress by Chanel are brought to life in virtual reality. The exhibitions feature the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters including Alexander McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Yves Saint Laurent, Manolo Blahnik, Gianni Versace , Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Balmain, Vivienne Westwood, Miyake Issey and many more.

“We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art,” Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture, said at the launch.

Fashion as culture

Fashion experts, curators and designers as well as universities, museums and NGOs from around the world collaborated on the exhibition to show that fashion is a part of our culture, a form of art and a result of true craftsmanship.

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