Every year, Kenyan shoppers are treated to an event that surpasses all the traditional forms of shopping in Nairobi (malls, thrift markets and local tailors) with the Nairobi Fashion Market (NFM). With over 60 stalls, NFM is an event that brings together some of Kenya’s best lifestyle products and brands over the course of two days. And while the beauty of the market lies in its ability to offer a wide variety of things in one location, it is the creation of an authentic lifestyle experience-with food and music-that makes this event so special.
As a first time visitor to the market, it was hard to know what to expect, but strolling the grounds of Ngong Race Course proved to be a thrilling experience. The plush green lawns stood in contrast against the white tents, and when the sun finally came out, against Nairobi’s beautiful blue sky. There was something about the energy there that brought back vivid memories of the African Arts Festival in Brooklyn, New York. But there was a difference; where Brooklyn was an attempt at celebrating an interpretation of African culture, NFM wasn’t an attempt at anything. It solely existed to do what it set out to do; retail some of Kenya’s best brands, a task it accomplished rather well.
The first stall to grab your attention as you entered the venue was the vintage and antique furniture shop, White Elephant. Their unique wooden pieces and accented ethnic upholstery made for a killer combination. Kafamily craft was another stall that stood out, not entirely because of the bright colours that grabbed your attention as you sauntered past, but also the impeccable finishing on the beaded jewellery we are all accustomed to seeing. Statement bracelets mimicking the shape of a traditional African shield and long elaborate necklaces were some of the unique items available.
Prices varied across the market, but most items were more or less generally affordable. At some stalls, bargaining was the modus operandi, at others; guests were offered a special discount for the two day affair.
The overall level of talent and creativity showcased by all the vendors said a lot about our creative culture and the potential of the fashion and beauty industry. Furthermore, the market fostered a sense of pride and patriotism, as people celebrated and supported local businesses through each purchase.
As delegates at the 10th Ministerial Conference discuss the most effective ways to increase intra-African trade creatives and entrepreneurs should take part in the larger discussion about trade and business on the continent. If an initiative such as NFM was to go continental, for example, it would allow local creatives the opportunity to show the rest of the continent what Kenya has to offer boosting further interaction between African nations.