The year 2022 begun on a high note for renowned Kenyan fashion designer Anyango Mpinga as she was featured on the NASDAQ Billboard in New York for the city’s fashion week organized between 11th – 16th February 2022.
The internationally acclaimed fashionista officially became the first and for that case the only Kenyan to achieve such an accolade. Anyango, whose career has taken a meteoric rise in a period of a decade took to her Instagram page to share this historic moment.
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“I’m excited to be one of the honorees of the conscious fashion campaign running during New York fashion week; as seen on the NASDAQ Billboard at Times Square,” she posted.
The billboard is strategically placed at the city’s stock exchange market where giant global companies are listed.
It goes without an iota of doubt that Mpinga attracts immense admiration from budding fashion designers in Kenya. Unknown to many people however is the fact that her journey began by taking a big gamble which ultimately paid off.
Education and career path
Mpinga was brought up in Nairobi and schooled at Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She took a degree in social communication and specialized in radio production. She was largely brought up by her mother who wanted her to be a news anchor.
After graduation, Mpinga worked for Radio Africa’s X FM then got employed at an advertising agency in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Then one day she was set to host a fashion show and a designer requested to dress her. She turned down the offer and decided she was going to dress herself.
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“One of the designers asked to dress me as I was the MC for the evening but I turned her down as I told her I wanted to wear one of my own designs. I wore my dress – which sparked a lot of attention that night – and I turned to my friend during the evening saying, I need to take this more seriously. Something shifted in my mind that night and I knew I had to pursue it,” she told Forbes in 2020.
Getting into fashion
Just like that, her new passion had been fueled, and she wasn’t going to back down on it. She began trying out various Kenyan designs and selling out her merchandise in Nairobi to various friends.
It was 2012 when Mpinga hosted another fashion show in Ethiopia, she dressed the model girls something that ate into her finances and had only $20 left with her – but it paid off handsomely.
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“I went to Ethiopia with $20 to spend. All my money had gone into the collection and friends looked after me while I was in the city working on the show. However, in the week after the event, I ended up leaving with $3000 in deposits. I remember thinking, I guess this means I’m in business officially now!” she recalls.
She took fashion designing seriously as she gradually began to carve a niche for herself. Mpinga established her own clothing line called Kipusa and is also behind the ‘Kondo Udo’ (ostrich feather Headdress) collections.Currently in her late 30’s she says she uses fashion to tell her story and culture.
“It is all about branding and perception. I invest in the production of my clothes brand. I like telling stories through my brand,” she said in a past interview.
In 2014, Mpinga was featured among the ‘African Designers for Tomorrow’ and her career has since taken an unprecedented rise. She has been to numerous fashion weeks globally: Mozambique (2016), Portugal (2021), New York (2022) and Lagos. Mpinga has also been featured on the Vogue Magazine.
Founding Free As A Human
As a social activist, she is the founder of a non-profit organization called Free as a human which aims at supporting female survivors of trafficking and modern slavery. The organization was founded in 2018 and she raises money through sale of various clothes which she donates to an organization called HAART Africa. The later basically seeks to free people from modern slavery in Kenya and East Africa.
Further Reading: Forbes.com; An interview with circular fashion designer Anyango Mpinga. 19th July, 2020.
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