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Uhuru wa Mashati: Why President’s tailors prefer to remain nameless

By Fred Kibor | July 2nd 2021

Each time he steps out to address the nation donning an African print shirt locally known as ‘Kitenge’, President Uhuru Kenyatta excites netizens with jokes that they can tell his mood, tone and even predict the speech by the type of clothes he wears on particular days.

Some impish netizens have even branded the head of state ‘Uhuru wa Mashati’ because of the different eye-catching and trendy shirts he steps out in on various occasions.

The shirts were so much hyped that during the Covid-19 pandemic containment measures pronouncement in the country, netizens claimed they would even tell if the President would lock the country or lift some health protocols if he wore a particular shirt.

Since 2019, President Uhuru appears to have developed love for locally made shirts and even called on Kenyans to wear locally made clothing. Since then, he has been making public appearances donning the African print shirts.

In a Tweet by State House dated August 30 2020; “The revival of Kenya’s leading textile factories among them Rivatex, Thika Cotton Mills and Ken Knit among others, is a deliberate and sustained Government strategy aimed at benefitting cotton farmers, growing local industries and creating jobs for the youth.”

President Uhuru made a deliberate attempt to rally Kenyans to support local products, a strategy aimed at reviving Kenya’s textile industry through the hashtag #BuyKenyaBuildKenya.

Almost on each Friday and while attending unofficial State functions the President dons designer shirts that have earned him praises by fashion enthusiasts. It is now a commonplace to find leaders attempting to kufuata Nyayo by also wearing African print shirts.

And behind the President’s new appearance is a team of dedicated and skilled tailors with an unmatched sense of fashion who ensure the commander-in-chief always steps out in style.

At Eldoret based Moi University-owned Rivatex East Africa, the textile institution has without fail been producing shirts for the head of state for the past two years and each week he receives a set of new shirts.

Rivatex Managing Director Thomas Kipkurgat says the company is proud to dress the head of state in clothing that represents the country’s national colors and culture.

“What the President wears every Friday comes from Rivatex Company and we are very proud and humbled that we are the ones dressing the head of state,” the MD said.

Kipkurgat described President Kenyatta as the company’s number one client and marketer and they are proud by his gesture to choose the wear.

“June 2019 will always be a memorable day for the management and staff of Rivatex during the commissioning of ultra-modern machines. The President dressed in a suit as speeches were going on, left his official seat at the dais and left for the backside. A few minutes later, he emerged in tow with his security detail donning a white shirt with blue stripes,” reminisced the MD.

It was, he added, while giving his speech the President broke the news the shirt he was putting on was from Rivatex.

“Every week, we ensure that the President’s shirts are ready. He has become our number one chief marketer and his gesture has always given us the zeal to do more knowing that people appreciate what we do,” said the MD.

He disclosed that a shirt goes up for a minimum of Sh1,700 at the facility outlets but retailers hike the prices marginally.

At the facility’s Tailoring, Fashion, and Apparel unit, The Nairobian found a team tasked with coming up with ideal designs for the head of state and for the corporate world.

Interestingly, the majority of the tailors live in the informal settlements spread across Eldoret town and fear being mentioned.

“Some criminal elements might attack us thinking we are paid huge monies since we make the president’s shirts. For our safety please do not mention our names or take pictures,” pleaded one of the tailors.

And they only have one wish, that they meet the head of state and get to hear from him how he feels in ‘their’ shirts.

 “There are specific people we are tasked with choosing the design that complements with his complexion before the team embarks to piece the fabric together. We get to the final product as a team and we are happy each time we see him don our shirts,” said one of the presidential tailors.

She said each shirt is meticulously made bearing in mind the wearer is the head of state.

“It always takes a day to make a shirt for the President as long as the design and colour has been agreed. The presidential designer is always abreast with the incoming designs thus our anxiety and work is cut out,” she added.

Another tailor said they feel honoured to be making shirts for the president and it gives them the drive to produce more.

“It is a great sense of patriotism and by endorsing our products the president has demonstrated to other Kenyans to be optimistic of our products. Many clients from all walks of life now seek the shirts because the president has endorsed them,” he said.

“We are optimistic that one day we will meet the president and get first-hand information from him on the products. The management always extends the presidential gratitude and we are happy about that.”

A marketing official at the textile company said the shirt the President wore during the release of the BBI report in Bomas was ours. We often work closely with state house officials while designing shirts for the head of state. He likes the dotted, multicolored fashion.”

Among other prominent personalities who wear the Rivatex made attire include top officials in the Office of the President, Cabinet Secretaries, Parastatals, County Governments, public and private companies, individuals and ordinary Kenyans.


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