Keziah Oloo says modelling and design have to change lives, beyond the usual glamour.
Ms Oloo, 26, is a fashion designer, entrepreneur and a model who uses her art to conserve the environment.
She leads a team of 12 models in Mombasa in a mangrove conservation cause.
“We use sports, film and photography to send the message to the community and other relevant stakeholders.”
They are focused on conserving the mangrove forest along the Tudor Creek, one of the two main water bodies separating Mombasa Island from the mainland.
A recent study carried out shows that more than 80 per cent of mangroves along the Indian Ocean coast in the area have been wiped out. “As models we realised we can use the platform to speak up. If the creek is invested in, it can be an attraction to tourists.”
When she was tasked to design the outfit befitting the cause, Ms Oloo opted for sisal sacks.
“It had to be a traditional look so as to relate with the Mijikenda Community living along the creek. I did not want the kanga or kaniki which everyone goes for,” she said.
Fashion design was not Ms Oloo’s first love; she dreamt of having a degree in law. She hoped to be a human rights lawyer, but in place she now defends the environment.
“As I was growing up, I always wanted to be a lawyer. To defend people but now I am glad I am fighting for the mangroves.”
She makes her own outfits, and “they are unique.” She got encouraged to do more because she got enough support from friends who liked what she was doing.
It was orders by friends that made her see the commercial side of the venture.
After graduating from the Technical University of Mombasa with a diploma in community development and counselling, she started looking for a job. She didn’t secure one. That’s when it dawned on her that her passion was a viable business.
“I asked myself why I was looking for a job yet I had a talent,” says Ms Oloo, adding that she convinced herself her designs were enough to employ many jobless youth in her neighbourhood. She has recruited two.
“I am training youth but at the end of the day if they make something they get money from it. My hope is to grow to create opportunities for more youth.”
Her entrepreneurial journey began with as low as Sh500 that she used to buy old jeans for Sh100 at the Kongowea Market.
She made three pairs of shoes from it with each going for Sh1,000.
The price of her shoes depends on material, decorations, and design. A loafer goes for Sh1,200, Sh700 for open shoes and doll shoes for Sh800.
She uses YouTube and Google for tutorials on design.
This article was first published in the Business Daily.