Wambui Kibue has been a game changer in the Kenyan fashion industry. She recently celebrated 12 years with Angelsmile, her fashion design house. She discusses her years in the industry and what she plans to do in the future
You decided that you wanted to be a fashion designer at quite a young age. What is your earliest memory of fashion?
Running after my mum in her heels as she left for work.
Are you self-taught or did you study fashion design?
Yes I did study fashion design. I went to college here in Kenya immediately after I finished high school and later in fashion capital Milan at the IED Fashion and Design School.
What is the best part about being a fashion designer?
Fulfilling my purpose.
You recently celebrated 12 years of Angelsmile, congratulations. How has your work evolved since you started your own label?
It’s become more precise. My style as a designer and fashion house is clearer, grander and more effortless.
The designs you have created over the years have done very well, what was your inspiration?
In summary, the world. Because I’m a bespoke designer, each masterpiece is tailored to its individual and, therefore, inspiration drawn from different places. Could be a picture, painting or architecture.
Do you see major changes in our local industry?
Yes! A drastic increase in the consumer’s understanding and appreciation for local designers, an increase in production facilities and retail spaces for locally made goods. There is also a wider variety of materials and of course more designers, be it bespoke or ready-to-wear quality goods.
What skills are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
A complete understanding of garment construction and different textiles, creativity/visualisation and illustration.
Milan. What were biggest lessons learnt there?
The importance of creating your own creative process as a designer. Dreams continue to come true if you believe. The beauty and importance of knitwear.
You have worked with a lot of media personalities/celebrities, stylists. What role do you think they play in fashion today? How has it worked out for you? Does it translate to sales?
They help to educate and direct the market/consumer. It definitely worked out for me because I was doing this long before social media was what it is now. Women like Namtero Mdee helped bring my brand to a wider audience.
Anything challenging of late and how do you handle stress?
Finding disciplined and self-driven employees for this phase of my business has been my biggest challenge. I pray a lot.
If you could go back and tell yourself three things before beginning your career, what would they be?
Put in clear systems before beginning the business and adjust accordingly, and frequently as the business grows. Take time out to be creative as it’s really imporant to flex that muscle to keep it going. And learn how to read people faster!
What is next for Angelsmile?
Ready-to-wear and world domination!