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Sonu puts Kenyan fashion on map

08 December 2011, 11:14 Maureene Danielle

Nairobi - Sonu Sharma is a multitalented, young at heart lady who is slowly step by step shaping East African fashion scene.
Maureene Danielle sought out to know what it takes to have beauty, brains and consistent success in the fashion industry in Kenya and beyond.

How old are you?
Hahaha. It feels like Sweet 16....but fact-in my early 30’s.

sonu sharma, fashion

How did you get into the fashion business?
I grew up having a strong passion or you could say I had a strong inclination towards Fashion trends, Media and Aviation.

After working for Qatar Airways based Doha for approx 4 years, I returned to New Delhi. I used to make it a point to attend all fashion shows; know what is new in the market, in terms of trends. So I went and studied for a diploma in Fashion Design, and used my sister’s vast network within the fashion industry, to help me navigate through and inspire my early work.

New Delhi also exposed me to various Fashion designers, High Profile Fashion weeks which further broadened my horizons.

In 2006, I relocated to Kenya after getting married. As time went by, I realized that Kenya had lots to offer to the World and has a rich Cosmopolitan flair to it, which is its hidden treasure. I observed that Kenyans love being fashionable and ‘my passion for Fashion ‘sprung back to life.

This led to the birth of Just Like That Ltd -Fashion House, as the name suggests we brought in a new dawn that would revolutionize Fashion in Kenya – JUST LIKE THAT.
I did my First Fashion Show in 2008 showcasing my designer apparels at Sarit Centre, In my first couple of collections I introduced a blend of Indo- Fusion clothing to the Kenyan Fashion scene, which originates from a mix of Indian elements and a strong western influence, to give a very contemporary expression with a Global Appeal It was a huge success and the reaction from People from all walks of life was overwhelming. The Event was covered by all mainstream media Channels.

Later on I got invited as a Designer & Speaker for Fashion and Beauty Expo at Westgate.

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to represent Kenya at the 2010/2011 Swahilli Fashion Week, in Tanzania. I must say the phenomenal response that I got from the audience and International media was simply amazing.

In terms of career milestones, these include being voted as the Fashion Ambassador Kenya 2009 – By “The Star Tabloid”; being the official Designer & Organizer of the TRENDZ KENYA FASHION FESTIVAL 2010/2011Fashion Show, Nairobi which was voted as the most Glamorous Event of 2010. I also had the great opportunity to visit and have a chat with M-NET, PATRICIA’S SHOW & feature in K24’s magazine programme.

So far Just Like That Ltd has held various Fashion Shows and events in Kenya and we are now regional, which is a rare feat especially if you do it in style and manage avoiding the scandals that plague many of our local initiatives. We as the Kenyan fashion industry have also benefitted from the High Street Fashions which have set a Benchmark in the industry.

How would you describe your designs?

I am a Designer who has no boundaries. My designs are a fine blend of Indian drapes with African local fabrics like the Kanga.

fashion, sonu sharma

My collections originate from a mix of Indian elements with fine detailing with heritage fabrics, the use of embroidery, prominent sequins, Zari Work and the usage of bold colours cut in a chic style to give a very contemporary expression with global appeal.
It is a concept of a makeover where the same Vintage clothing is presented in a new modern look.

I definitely believe that my designs are not something only for the catwalk ramp…but can be worn by an every day girl as she goes around with her duties.

Fashion is what looks good on you and colour is what suits you, hence the variation in my designs to make you feel confident, chic, stylish.

Today’s woman, whether from the corporate world or a girl next door is far more conscious of her appearance and is willing to experiment with her clothes, she wants to be traditional yet fashionable.

sonu sharma, fashion

When you are not designing, how do you spend your time?
My husband Sanjeev Sharma and I run a company under the Brand name “JUST LIKE THAT LTD.” So when I ‘m not designing, I am busy with the day to day operations of the company which deals with fashion, model agency, event organising, travel and digital marketing agency. So my hands are full, and at times I feel that the time is too short for me to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished. Miles to go before I Sleep!!!

Tell us a bit about the fabrics you use; pricing of items and how one can get to purchase your pieces?

The fabrics used are Indian Drapes in shiffon, gorgetts, net, etc with haulter or short choli designer blouses /Kurtis with a touch of class and our local cotton fabrics such as the Kanga. The prices range from Ksh3000/- going up. I mainly cater for sizes L-4XL and are available at our Fashion Lounge situated in KILELESHWA. Soon Just Like That is going on-line with a dynamic portal shoppe@justlikethat.co.ke, which will make it easier for my Kenyan clients and others around the globe to purchase my apparels with ease.

What inspired the collection you showcased during the 2010/2011 Swahili Fashion Week in Tanzania where you carried the Kenyan flag?
Inspiration to me comes from people, colours & fabrics. As a designer you need to have an eye for beauty. You need to be imaginative and convert that to reality. Imagination is key to Creativity.

fashion, sonu sharma

Kanga, a cotton fabric as we all know is synonymous with East Africa, has bold colours & prints, which were a great inspiration in bringing my imagination to life as I created the collection. The collection was called “THE MODERN KANGA” and was a Blend of Kanga with other fabrics; reflecting a modern day African Wear with Global Appeal. Every piece was unique in itz own way, prominently bringing out the feminism of an African Woman.

How did you feel being the Kenyan representative?

In just approximately five years of my stay in Kenya, I have been warmly accepted and appreciated for my contribution towards the Fashion industry here. This for me is a huge achievement as there is no bigger satisfaction for a designer than to get people appreciating your creativity. A designer’s food is appreciation, and thus I felt honoured to have been invited to represent Kenya in celebrating 50 yrs of Tanzania’s ‘UHURU’.

fashion, sonu sharma

How would you compare the fashion scene in Kenya to Tanzania?
The fashion scene in Kenya is evolving rapidly. Kenya has lots to offer to the World and in the coming years we are going to see an absolute transformation in the industry in Kenya. Kenya will be a bench mark for the countries in East Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many Kenyans would love to wear the local design but have a problem with quality and or the price being a bit steep?
There are good quality apparels available in the market and as always good things come with a price. My advice is Not to be Penny wise, Pound Foolish and invest in good high quality stuff.

What more could we do as a country; as a government and as stakeholders so that we can see the Kenyan fashion industry grow and mass produce and be consumed by both local and international markets?
To take Kenyan Fashion to greater heights and get the due recognition it deserves around the world, the government has to support the initiatives taken by organizations and individuals like ourselves to grow the Industry.

There are many countries across the world, which allocate budgets to promote their respective fashion industries. Our Culture and Tourism Boards need to support our initiatives, which is bound to have an unprecedented impact on our country’s brand image and shall also create jobs.

We at Just Like That Ltd have taken steps to promote fashion in Kenya by organizing a Calendar event - TRENDZ  KENYA FASHION FESTIVAL -  which  is  a platform for the stakeholders & supporters of this vibrant industry. It is a gateway for designers-both fashion & accessory-from East Africa & overseas to showcase their creativity, market their art and network with their clientele. This is all aimed at promoting fashion as an income generating, job creating industry, also showcasing diverse range of products that are in vogue and consolidate Nairobi’s status as the “Next Fashion & Urban Lifestyle Capital of Africa."

The next Trendz – Kenya Fashion Festival is scheduled for JULY 2012, so we hope to see more fashion lovers come through and experience fashion at its best.

What would be your advice to other would be designers?

There are No Boundaries for in design, so let your imagination flow and manifest into a lovely piece of creation. Be confident and know that you are uniquely beautiful & creative in your own way. Connect with people through fashion & bring a smile on their face!

Sonu Sharma is a designer and Managing Director-"JUST LIKE THAT LTD”

- News24Kenya

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