Cohort 1

By breathing new life into old clothes, this exhibition hopes to evoke a new consciousness in the mind of the public about the fashion waste we produce as individuals. And to inspire ideas of how we can reduce that waste by extending the shelf life of our clothes, through creative design.

Fashion Agenda Africa identified young designers, Kunjina Tesflaye from Ethiopia and Makumi Wamuti from Kenya, to participate in the 4 week fashion residency which resulted in a runway show and fashion exhibition showcasing a 12 piece collection.

The aim of this fashion showcase was to bring the concept of high fashion to the grass root level. The fashion show was used to impact the young people's lives in the villages positively by exposing them to alternative careers within fashion and to build self confidence through modelling and catwalk on the runway.

All garments and accessories showcased here are made from used garments gathered from the village market and upcycled into new and beautiful fashionable clothes.

The fashion residency program included mentorship from the young designers from established fashion icons including Ciruma Mbare, Kawira Mirero and Hellen Tolbert.

Tafaria Center for the Arts collaborated with Fashion Agenda Africa to create Kenya's first ever Fashion and Design residency.

Cohort 1 Members

Makumi Wamuti, 25, Kenya

I was born and bred in Kiambaa, Kiambu, and this is my fourth year as a fashion designer by training. I came across the post on Facebook and registered successfully, and being selected validated the fact that I’m on the right path in my career.

In the one month away, I found peace of mind in nature and plenty of time to reflect; I grew up in the countryside, so this serenity was an extension of my life, just quieter.

 As I worked through the residency, the sessions taught me different concepts like mood boarding, and I also got to interact with new fabrics during the course. I also gained immense perspective from interacting with the faculty; it helped me learn things about fashion I wouldn’t have learned in school, like marketing and pricing. 

Kunjina Tesfaye, 26, Ethiopia

The residency gave me a month away from the hustle and bustle of Addis Ababa and my fashion line, Kunjina, and this was a game-changer. When I saw the application online via the Fashion Agenda Workshop and decided to try it, I was selected, which made me ecstatic.

The program itself met my expectations; I always have been into upcycling. In addition, working with the community was a great experience. There was a good balance of rest, self-directed creating and learning from the faculty. I applied research, innovation and the local environment as I sketched and put the collection together, giving it rich context.


Ciruma Mbare

Fashion Communications and Style Consultant, Attirery Services

I do a wide range of work in Kenya’s fashion and design space; I work in styling, training, and project management. I enjoyed imparting my experience to the two participants, Kunjina and Makumi.

I worked closely with Akinyi Odongo of Fashion Agenda Africa (FAA) to set up the residency with Tafaria, write up the program and do the callout. It’s great to give creative people space to do what they do best, create and have a mental expansion that is beneficial to their growth.

Kunjina is very present and very actively involved in the fashion industry in Ethiopia. She has experience in this kind of training as she’s been in a fashion incubator before. Makumi is a great designer- his creative thinking is terrific, and the residency helped him structure his production process.

This residency is beneficial to designers because it draws them out of the box that they would traditionally be in and helps them interact with other facets of the business like research and understanding clients needs. In future, we hope to have other fashion creatives on board to focus on their call more frequently.

Hellen Tolbert

Founder and CEO, Ellen Designs

I’ve been a fashion designer for the last 13 years, and I’m the founder and CEO of Ellen Design, a line focusing on occasion and evening wear. The years I’ve been in Fashion Agenda Africa (FAA) led by Akinyi Odongo have been the most fruitful ones of my career, so when she called on me to be a faculty member for the residency, I automatically took it up.

I taught the participants, Kunjina and Makumi, on brand building, with the personal experience of building my brand for all these years. As a result, they learned how to create awareness on social media, be a competitive brand, and humanise their brands, among many other valuable lessons.

Teaching them made me learn a lot, considering they are younger than I am and have a lot to offer because they are in touch with the current market and have fresh ideas. When you share, you learn; when you don’t, you can stay stagnant.

I urge any upcoming designers to apply for subsequent residency cohorts because being in a community is essential, and it’s a lifetime opportunity because of the lessons, networks and impact made.


Kawira Mihero

Founder and Creative Designer, Mambo Pambo Design Studio

As the creative director of Mambo Pambo Design studio, I craft afro-contemporary apparel for urban man and woman. I’ve worked as a creative entrepreneur and designer for the last seven years, ensuring that all my clients feel amazing in our impeccably tailored clothes that are inclusive.

My role in the residency was to tackle segmentation, targeting and pricing. In addition, I was able to bring Kunjina and Makumi up to speed with the latest business models and emerging ideas around creative entrepreneurship.

A unique thing about the experience I have to offer is that I’m both a trained designer and a marketing specialist, and I’ve worked in the corporate world for sixteen years. Designers aren’t taught how to run a business, and through this residency, there was an opportunity to learn how to monetise their creativity and build a sustainable design business.

The residency has great potential, and with more time, planning and engagement, it will be a force to reckon with in years to come.