Politics of fashion, style that define leaders

President Uhuru Kenyatta as he arrived in Kisumu County for a three-day working tour of Nyanza Region. The President was received by Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Kisumu Governor Prof. Anyang' Nyong'o on May 30, 2021. [PSCU, Standard]

“Fashion is not just about trends, it’s all about political history. You can trace it from the ancient Romans, and you can see the defining moments that were due either to revolutions or changes in politics”, said English fashion designer Daphne Guinness.

It has been said time that the way you dress is a clear depiction of the message you send across. A saying that most stylish politicians probably go by when choosing daily outfits.

From the days of the late founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, politicians have developed their own style. Mzee Kenyatta’s signature favourites were pinstripe suits, double breasted suits and leather jackets. Not to forget the beaded kofia that he used to complete most of his looks.

Former president Daniel Arap Moi had an exquisite taste in fashion, a trait he followed even after retiring from office in 2002.

“Moi was so fashion-conscious that every occasion called for a set class of apparel. For instance, church clothes differed from rally outfits and the team had to stay on its toes. It was official attire when he attended church and State functions. He would don designer-made short-sleeved shirts during harambees, tree-planting or trips to hot zones like Coast or North-Eastern provinces,” said Kipkering Sugut, a retired presidential security officer who together with his team was tasked with selecting the president’s outfits on a daily basis, in a past interview with The Standard.

And today, many politicians take time with their choice of dressing; whether on official duty or while taking a break from their crazy work schedule.

Topping the list is President Uhuru Kenyatta whose love for African themed print shirts have earned him praise from fashion enthusiasts; even more so for embracing locally made designs.

“What the president wears every Friday comes from Rivatex. Most people do not know about this and we are very proud to reveal that we are the ones dressing him every end of the week. We often work closely with State House officials while designing his shirts. He likes the dotted, multicoloured fashion,” said Rivatex Managing Director Thomas Kipkurgat in a previous interview.

Thene there is First lady Margaret Kenyatta. Also a lover of African prints, it is safe to say her sense of style is timeless.

Nairobi County Women Representative Esther Passaris during Miss World Kenya finals at the Mall, Westlands, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

She has previously been spotted wearing different local designer pieces by the designers like Akinyi Odongo and Sally Karago. The latter has previously dressed former first ladies Mama Ngina Kenyatta and Mama Lucy Kibaki. Among the first lady's favourite fits are the dresses she is usually in on national days, a favourite of the designer.

 “Everything that I do is loose. I don’t do tight. I’m very gipsy in the way I dress and all the things that I sell. I don’t have hems; my things are cut in a different way. When you look at my jackets, they don’t have seams. So, everything that I do has something edgy about them,” Sally Karago said in an interview.

Deputy president William Ruto always steals the show thanks to his unique fashion choices and has worked with some notable local fashion designers such as Ashok Sunny of Ashok Sunny Satoriale.

“It is a humbling experience to dress some of the most powerful people in the land. Such things don’t happen every day and I am grateful that I got to the opportunity to do so. It’s a good feeling to learn that your work is recognized. I obviously look forward to working with him again and other notable leaders in the country,” said Ashok Sunny.

The list of fashionable politicians is long, but notable names include Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho whose taste is versatile and chic, Siaya senator James Orengo with his classy and CS Najib Balala noted for his Ankara bowties. Others include Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika.

Just recently Chief Justice Martha Koome was spotted in a local designer tote bag by Jojajok Luxury Leather owned by Tedd Josiah. An excited Tedd couldn’t contain his joy as he shared the news with his followers on his Instagram page.

“This make me proud and emotional. There’s a little girl called Wendo “Love” there’s a bag named after her & there’s a big girl who has broken the glass ceiling to become a beautiful Chief Justice! Both are tied together with a bag. Our Wendo “Love” tote bag is being worn by our Chief Justice and that gives us so much joy and pride!!!! It makes all the struggles we’ve had with @jokajokluxuryleather well worth it. As we keep growing we’d like to thank our Instagram family for building this brand with us from day 1!!!!Believe in your dreams NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE!!!”

Further afield former US First Lady Michelle Obama earned her slot in the fashion books as a style icon. Having worked with the best of the best designers in the world, something she says she was honoured and humbled to, Michelle’s fashion choices spoke volumes. She is widely regarded as one America's most fashionable first ladies