Thursday 19th September 2019
Featured, In the News

David Beatty, from London to Nairobi

The magazine had a sit down with David Beatty, to glean insights on how the fashion scene in Nairobi was birthed and the rise of the fashion photographer.

{Photography: Courtesy, Teddy Mitchener}

Fashion in this region, especially Kenya has come such a long way and has been a transformation well worth watching. I was born in London and my first foray into Africa was as a safari guide and a free lance photographer on an overland client safari from London to Cape Town in 1970.

The concept of fashion in Nairobi was virtually non-existent before then, with the only known fashion photographer in the 1970s and 1980s being the famed New York photographer, Peter Beard, who lived at Hog Ranch in Karen and famously discovered the Kenyan-Somali model,  Iman. The typical image at the time was of what I call the ‘Out of Africa’, girl by the thorn tree, posing” and fashion shows were virtually unheard of.

“The first dedicated fashion magazines appeared in England and France in the late 18th century. In the 19th century, fashion magazines—such as the French La Mode Illustrée, the British Lady’s Realm, and the American Godey’s Lady’s Book—proliferated and flourished. Featuring articles, hand-coloured illustrations (known as fashion plates), and advertisements, fashion magazines—together with other developments such as the sewing machine, department stores, and ready-to-wear clothing produced in standard sizes—played a significant role in promoting the democratization of fashion in the modern era..Previously, couture houses would only offer their clients private viewings of the latest fashions. The development of effective and inexpensive methods of reproducing photographs in print media in the early 20th century led to the rise of fashion photography and fashion magazines such as Vogue.” {}

In Kenya, the genesis of the fashion industry and the rise in fashion photography was the arrival of the International Smirnoff Awards onto the scene in 1995. At the time, the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards was the largest international event of its kind, and became a stepping stone to success for top fashion students from around the globe.  The annual awards show ran until 2002 and famously produced leading Kenyan designers Monica Kanari, Patricia Mbela and John Kaveke.

With the departure of the Smirnoff Awards, the Kenya Fashion Week made its brief debut and soon after there was a plethora of fashion shows, most notably The Fashion high Tea, The Nairobi Fashion Mart and Festival for African Fashion & Arts (FAFA). Commercially renowned designers are now showcasing their designs with their very own shows and specially made up spaces are now transforming to accommodate fashion extravaganzas, with spectaculars shows being held at RaMoMa Museum of Modern Art Gallery and at the swanky uptown TRIBE hotel.

What these fashion shows did for the local scene, indeed regionally, was to light a fire that cannot be quenched. There has been an exponential growth in local fashion designers, a budding modeling industry and the rise of the fashion photographer. Fashion photography has deeply entrenched itself into the modern ethos, becoming extremely significant to both art and history. There is now enormous investment in time and money by the fashion photographer, who away from the fashion shows, is turning the passion and expertise into editorial-like Ad campaigns, as seen in the photographers showcase on page….

June 24, 2016