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Cheers to my aunt who sparked my love for tailoring

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By MARION MAINA
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Growing up, Eva Kiama said that she wanted to be an economist in future. It sounded like a very important job, the kind that most parents and teachers love to hear from the lips of children.

Every day after school, Eva would pass by her auntie’s tailor shop and spend some time with her.

“Auntie Muthoni used to knit sweaters and tailor clothes. I was intrigued by the sounds of the sewing machine and her prowess in handling the cut out fabrics,” Eva recalls.

Although she was not aware, the seed for designing clothes had been sowed in young Eva’s heart.

Eva excelled in her studies and proceeded to university where she studied Actuarial Science. Upon graduation, she embarked on the well-trodden path of job-hunting but none was forthcoming.

She was quickly becoming another statistic in the bloated population of unemployed youths.

After some time, she felt compelled to watch fashion tutorials on YouTube—call it a distraction from the frustrating job-hunting.

The more she watched dressmaking tutorials and DIYs the more her interest grew. She began making some sketches which she would take to local tailors for tailoring.

Unfortunately, the tailors were unable to grasp her designers and she always ended up disappointed. Thanks to this disappointment, 23-year-old Eva is now thriving in her career as a budding fashion designer. She speaks to Life&Style:

When did you start your journey as a fashion designer?

Looking back, I now understand that my journey began when I was a child hanging out in auntie Muthoni’s tailoring shop in Nyahururu.

Much later in campus, I was keen on fashion trends but did not quite think much of it then because at that age, most people take an interest in clothes and looking good.

Therefore, this is a path I have been on for the longest time, part of it without my knowledge.

However, I designed my first cloth in July 2017. I made a beautiful African fabric skirt for my sister after watching tons of YouTube tutorials and getting disappointed by many tailors.

I didn’t have a sewing machine at the time and so I used a needle and thread to make the skirt. She loved it and her glowing face when I gave it to her gave me the motivation to start tailoring.

Shortly after, Auntie Muthoni got wind of what I was up to and she gave me a sewing machine. The hustle was on!

Arim Design

Eva hopes to revolutionise African print to everyday wear. PHOTO| COURTESY

What is the inspiration behind the name Arim designs?

After getting the machine, I began designing in earnest and realised that I need to brand my creations. All the names I came up with felt bland…too generic.

I wanted to give my brand a personal feel. One day as I was doodling possible names, a name struck my mind; Arim. My dad calls me Arim—derived from my middle name Wairimu.

It was perfect and I settled for it.

Arim Designs

One of Eva’s designs. PHOTO| COURTESY

How long have you been in business? Do you have any employees?

I have been running Arim Designs for roughly a year now. The last few months of 2017 were spent getting a feel of tailoring and getting acquainted with the machine as well as different fabrics.

In January 2018, I officially began taking orders from clients while working from home. Later on in June, I opened my own shop.

At the moment, I do not have any employees but I am looking to hire because the workload is getting a bit overwhelming.

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Who are your main clients?

Young women…I am open to designing for everyone but young women form the bulk of my customers.

What is your marketing strategy for reaching clients?

The internet has really done a lot for my career as a fashion designer. Remember I learnt how to tailor through YouTube tutorials online?

Social media is my market place, especially Facebook and Instagram. I have created pages for my designs and often get models—mostly friends and happy clients—to showcase my creations online.

I also do deliveries because people visiting the Arim Designs social media pages have the option to shop online.

Arim Design

Arim design is seeks to promote African fabrics. PHOTO| COURTESY

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

(Laughs) Everyone knows what tailors are often accused of, no? Meeting the deadline. It is especially hard for me given that I have no help.

Sometimes a delivery takes longer than intended and eats up on the time to meet the deadline of another client’s order. Being honest with my customers has been my saving grace.

I realise that although it disappoints them a little, most customers appreciate being told the truth on whether the outfits are ready or not.

Another challenge is communication breakdown. Some customers will come with a design in mind and ask for my expert opinion.

However, they will disregard it and because customer is king, I make the outfit as per their preference. Once they try it on, it hits them the design doesn’t work for their body type and we often have to redo it.

Where do you get ideas for your designs?

Social media. This is beginning to sound monotonous right? (laughs). Pinterest in particular has been an immense source of ideas for me.

I am also very observant and often spot something interesting as I walk around. Then there are ideas that just occur to me right out of the blues… creativity they call it?

Arim Designs

Dresses designed by Eva of Arim Designs. PHOTO| COURTESY

If you were to dress a celebrity, who would it be and why?

Mrs Maria Mbeneka, the Laikipia County governor’s wife, because she has such a great sense of fashion and also, that being my home county, it would be amazing if my first big break came from there, right?

I would also love to dress singer Kambua, she rocks the African fabric beautifully.

Christmas is around the corner, anything in store for your clients?

Oh yes, I have great offers lined up and amazing designs that I have been building up for this peak season. Of course, they can stay updated on all this on our various social media platforms.

Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs who hope to get into the fashion industry?

I would tell them to follow their heart and be ready for plenty of multi-tasking because this is a very hands-on kind of job. They should also cultivate efficient people skills that will help them relate with clients of all temperaments.

I want to change our mind-set of African fabric. We have made it a reserve for special occasions but I firmly believe that it can be an everyday wear.

I look forward to seeing people show up in the office in sharp African print suits. My brand is about pursuing this vision.

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