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Rosemary Runyenje: Meet The Designer Behind Kenya’s Ceremonial Kit For the 2024 Paris Olympics

The ceremonial kits for the 2024 Paris Olympics have been unveiled, eliciting negative reactions from Kenyans who opined that they were somewhat mediocre and a far cry from the bold statement that was expected.

The kits were designed by a group of fashion creators led by Rosemary Runyenje who emerged top in Team Kenya’s fashion and design competition for casual wear, the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony conducted by the Ministry of Sports.

Runyenje trounced 113 other designers to win KShs 300,000 in the competition, while two other creators Georgina Fernandez and Victor Okumu came in second and third each receiving Kshs 200,000 and Kshs 100,000 respectively.

Rosemary is the third-born in a family of three and was raised in a strict household, with her parents pushing for her to excel in her studies. Her mother always wanted her to be a pharmacist, but she had an artistic inclination to fashion.

The 29-year-old graduated from Kenyatta University in 2017 with a degree in Fashion and Design, and she said she was inspired by her late father who was an architect to follow her dreams. Winning the competitions was a big deal not only for her career but for her family as well.

“My mom is very happy as well for this moment because to be honest she did not want me to be a fashion designer. She had bigger dreams for me and she wanted me to be a pharmacist. However, after my first year in school and seeing my passion for this career, she then started supporting and she even bought me my first sewing machine,” Runyenje said in a past interview.

Rosemary entered the competition to establish herself as a respected fashion designer and her efforts bore fruits after she won with her designs in the category of casual wear for the Paris Olympics.

“This is huge considering that I am not really known in the fashion industry in Kenya. I feel so thrilled and humbled; for sure, I am speechless especially with the fact that my design will be showcased worldwide through the opening ceremony at the Paris Olympic Games,” she noted.

Earlier this year, The Ministry of Sports announced that Team Kenya would be donning Kenyan-made designs for casual wear, urging Kenyan designers to come out and showcase their best looks in a competition under the Talanta Hela initiative to dress the country’s Olympic team at the Summer Games.

Fashion bigwigs led by stylist Connie Oluoch were involved in a panel to pick the winners for the designs for the opening ceremony. Members included stylist Brian Babu, model Rue Baby, and lawyer Liz Lenjo among others.

“We have been counting down the days to the Olympics and every day has mattered, we have been deliberate. We have taken time to curate a fitting look for Kenya. We have been careful to make sure that when Team Kenya steps out in Paris on July 26 the whole world will stand and say wow! Here comes Africa’s most successful nation at the Olympics.

The whole world must see our arrival. We have spent months thinking and imagining a look that will be uniquely Kenyan, reflecting the special character of our country,” Sports CS Ababu Namwamba said.

President William Ruto commended the team of designers for the job, stating it was high time that the youth showcase their talents on a global platform, and do it for the benefit of their own country.

“I am very proud of the team here, I told CS Namwamba that it is not fair for us to import kits when we have Kenyan talent that can craft and curate an outfit that is truly Kenyan designed by Kenyans, produced by Kenyans and tailored by Kenyans,” he said during the display of the dress code at State House Nairobi.

Following the outrage by Kenyans since its launch, the ceremonial kit that allegedly cost Kshs 150 million, has since been recalled and is being relooked at and reworked on.

There are three kits that the Olympic team will be wearing including the competition kit provided by NIKE, which comes with the training kits, accessories such as shoes, medal kits and carrier bags, the ceremonial kits to be worn for opening and closing ceremonies and the travel kit provided by the sponsors, which are worn during pre-departure and arrival from the games.