We’re back. With the weekend being over it’s time to showcase our last few designers. Today we focus on Katungulu Mwendwa, or Katush, to those who know her. This shy, sweet, but hilariously funny young designer studied in England, but returned home to Kenya soon after to start her career.  After sourcing for stores to house her collections she thought it best to open a shop that supports up and comers like herself, ultimately connecting with like-minded individuals who have been able to share their experiences in a communal fashion.

While in Addis Ababa for Hub of Africa Fashion Week, we sat down with Katush to talk inspiration, her start, and what we should expect next season.

Tell us the inspiration behind this collection.
My collection was called “The People of the Taboo” and based on the Wodaabe of Northern Africa and their Nomadic Tribe. And this started because I saw the headwrap of one of the women from the tribe. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Then after doing further research I discovered they are actually known as “The People of the Taboo” by their neighboring tribes. Similar to the way I do my other collections I play around with volumes and shapes that I find in their traditional wear. Like what the men wear during the Guérewol Festival – a caftan-like piece that’s embroidered in the front kind of like an apron. And there’s the women who come to the festival who have these sort of crop top pieces that are heavily embroidered.

Who’s the women that wears your collection?
A lot times it tends to be an extension of me and my various (laughs) personalities in my head. I think I conceptualize women in various environments. Sometimes you can see I design for this woman who is going to work, or going on a picnic, or going out in the night. Just different environments. I’m very laid-back and prefer to be very comfortable and designed my collection along those lines.

Is your collection something you would wear?
I think I would, but I’m never really confident enough. It’s very strange. I don’t like attention brought towards me, and a lot of my pieces are very statement-like. People go,”Oh my God, that’s so cool.” So the fact they are looking at me and telling me that’s cool, makes me nervous as I’m shy. (laughs) When I’m with friends and family and those who know me, it’s fine though.

What’s your education?
I went to fashion school and graduated at the University of Creative Arts in the United Kingdom. Then I came back home [Kenya] and I randomly found myself doing a fashion show that my friend asked me to participate in. Now I have my own store that supports other designers called Mofti. It was intentional as it came up due to me not being able to find places to stock my stuff and I realized there were other designers like myself, who had similar issues.

So what do you think of platforms like Hub of Africa?
It brings African designers all over the globe. The fact that we can relate on different levels and communicate with each other about certain issues that some might have, or certain positive aspects that might be useful to somebody else. We’re like a family. Plus it’s a great opportunity for the local community to discover who else is out there. Like the Maatano sisters, who people may have never known were African, allows them to showcase their work.

Any idea of what we can expect next season?
I actually have no idea. I still want to explore the Wodaabe. When I started I even tried creating my own sort of prints, but I may explore jackets. The last time I did jackets, I went a bit overboard (laughs), so God knows. We’ll see.

Photo Credit: Hailemaria Segewokalabi of Abi Photography and Abiy Solomon