In Summary
  • It started in 2015 when I was only 19 years old.
  • I started wearing deras and everyone liked it but they couldn’t buy the dresses because one had to go all the way to Mombasa to source the traditional dresses that has now become common.
  • Do you have feedback on this story? E-mail: [email protected]

Maryne Keseri is a jack of all trades and master of one: fashion. The 22-year-old fashion designer and stylist who “sells all she can sell” won the House of Legacy Female designer of the year award.

 “I am really into designing and styling ladies wear. I also design African handbags,” she says in a bubbly tone as we settle for the interview. She is wearing one of her elegant designs, a pink head wrap, flowing green dress with African detail and her signature African handbag.

“I also sell my ideas to other people because I can’t do the knitting and tailor work.”

Her business acumen doesn’t stop there. Maryne sells Ankara fabric, men’s shoes, dera dresses (a Somali cultural dress that was adopted by the Kenyan Swahili community) and mabuyu, a type of candy made from the seeds of the Baobab tree fruit.

“You seem to be selling everything, what would you say is your major product or service?” I ask.

JANE OF ALL TRADES?

“Fashion designing and styling, I design fashion items, such as head wraps and dera dresses,” she quickly defends her jack-of-all-trades nature.

Her master is women's fashion. She is currently working on a wedding project due in December which  this entails designing garments for the bridesmaids and grooms and styling them too.

“The income from my side businesses, such as, mabuyu, is for supporting myself. Selling mabuyu is profitable, I use the proceeds for my transport and food hence I don’t over rely on my fashion business.”

Where did it all start?

“It started in 2015 when I was only 19 years old. I started wearing deras and everyone liked it but they couldn’t buy the dresses because one had to go all the way to Mombasa to source the traditional dresses that has now become common.”

Maryne Keseri says she "sells anything she can sell' but fashion is the business she loves and has mastered. PHOTO| BENJAMIN OPIYO

This was a business opportunity and she jumped right in. Her plan was to travel to Mombasa and buy the dresses then sell them to her customers in Nairobi at a slightly higher price, but she had no money.

“In this world, no one wants the best for you though there a few people who mean well. I had this burning idea so I approached a family friend who lent me Sh5000.” “There are incredible humans out here, I had never went to Mombasa neither did I know anyone from there but, miraculously, I met a lady who guided me and ensured I got the fashion items from Marikiti.”

The business was an instant success.

“I was selling the dresses at Sh500 yet I bought them at Sh200.That's how my business started.”

She kept restocking her dresses.

“I brought in quality deras with unique patterns,” she says. Acknowledging this grew her customer base. Being the designer she is, Maryne started designing the dresses by adding a bit of African detail into the mix. This was because deras had become common and she wanted hers to stand out.

THE BIG BREAK

She got fully into fashion when Fredrick Kyule of House of Legacy saw her fashion pieces on Instagram and called her to dress his models.

“I have a passion for African style. African (culture) is rare and beautiful, it’s not found anywhere and I try to embrace our culture by making African themed head wraps, handbags and dresses,” she says enthusiastically. Her point is that westerners are embracing African attire and Ankara fabrics so Africans should learn to embrace their own before aping the West.

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