Near the end of April, the nonprofit group Festival for African Fashion and Arts held the Fashion for Peace show inside the Nairobi National Park in Kenya. The show featured designers from Kenya, as well as from other African nations, including South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. Though widespread food shortages and ethic tensions persist, Kenya enjoys a relative peace. In response to the country’s changing political climate, this year’s event focused more on promoting Kenyan fashion beyond the country’s borders than on a clarion call for peace.
Of course, the high-end outfits stayed well above the purchasing power of the average Kenyan. The runway show was actually for international consumption and to mainly catch people’s attention. Lara Mastropasqua, one of the organizers, said that establishing a fashion industry in Kenya could create local jobs that would service the global fashion market. “From the textile workers, to the women who bead, to the small cottage industry people who have amazing craftsmanship, if Africans were to reinvest in their culture, there could actually be an entire industry that could develop,” she stated. “You will rarely have an African designer have the opportunity to show his or her talent internationally,” she said. For now, high-end fashion remains a luxury in the developing nation. Diana Libiso, a television producer who attended the show, said that price will always keep Kenyans away from designer clothes. “Your typical, average Kenyan would not spend above 25 dollars on an outfit,” she said.