Wedding dress designer relies on quality craftsmanship and affordability to drive demand for locally made dresses


Wedding dress designer relies on quality craftsmanship and affordability to drive demand for locally made dresses

Arnold Muriithi, creative director of Arnold Muriithi during the interview at his Rosslyn Riviera Mall on September 2, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

After visiting dozens of bridal retailers and trying on dozens of wedding dresses, Stephanie Mwiti knew for sure that finding a ready-to-wear wedding dress, given her tall, curvy silhouette, was not going to be possible. .

“I wanted to look and feel special on my wedding day. Slipping into a dress that I didn’t like or that would exceed my budget was not an option,” the 30-year-old explains.

On this momentous day, she wore a custom fitted dress, designed by herself, with a fishtail design. It was December 2019. The ivory-colored dress was made from a mix of fabrics – satin, patterned lace and three-tiered tulle bottoms.

Anthony Muriithi was the bridal designer who took the dress from sketch to reality.

“I chose ivory over white because it complemented my skin best,” she says, adding that the dress which cost her 45,000 shillings was well received.

“Most people were shocked at how inexpensive it was and how elaborate the design. They wouldn’t believe it was made in Kenya by a Kenyan designer. I was very happy. It was a job well done.”

Ms Mwiti is one of many brides Mr Muriithi has worked with since opening a bridal design outfit – Anthony Muriithi – with UK-based co-founder Nash Stewart in 2017. The company specializes in all things bridal – dresses, bridesmaids dresses, and accessories.

“Today’s bride is not shy. She is edgy and out of line with traditions and societal expectations,” says the 30-year-old designer, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design from the Kenyatta University.

“They’re not afraid to break the rules on their big day because it’s their big day.”

Scrolling through the African Fabric and Designs Kenya Instagram page feels like walking through an art gallery, except the art is on people’s bodies. Kate Mayeye-Okaranime’s wedding dresses and her team’s design are pieces dripping with personality, finesse, and flair that add drama to the wedding attire of the modern bride.

The appointment-based fabric store offers “uniqueness for the bride to show up and show off.” Bespoke fabric works feature exquisite marriages of different fabric types, feather-trimmed designs, intricate details that take inspiration from the natural environment such as 3D flowers, crystal embellishments, stones and pearls of all kinds, life-size and bold arches. color mixtures.

“I describe our style as extra, exquisite and detailed. The bride who walks through our doors and walks out wearing our designs is not afraid to push the boundaries,” says Ms. Mayeye, Founder of African Fabric and Designs Kenya. Her clients come of the whole world.

The 35-year-old, who has worked with fabrics since childhood, adds that she doesn’t sell elegance, which is what today’s bride is looking for.

“Elegance is who you are. It comes from within you, and the modern bride understands that.

The company primarily caters to clients who are having traditional African weddings and want an additional or bespoke dress with or without an African touch.

“The demand for locally made wedding dresses is growing, spurred by the affordability and availability of top designers who offer quality and craftsmanship. Additionally, Kenyans are still very tactile people. Being part of the process of making the dress of their dreams is something they are willing to pay for because the results are guaranteed,” she adds.

And dream dresses become anything but forgettable.

One of her recent designs is a luxury trumpet dress made from hand beaded paneled fabric with an intricately worked pattern using rhinestones and glass beads with beaded fringe sleeves. The other is a satin wedding dress decorated with pearls, 3D flowers, tulle and beaded lace.

“Love for the finer things in life encourages people to be bolder,” says the passionate fabric designer.

An extraordinary breathtaking dress designed by them will cost at least 65,000 shillings.

Some dresses have embellishments that add weight to the dress, but brides see it as a weighted beauty.

Social media has been a major driver of this change as it has broadened customers’ view of the world. Additionally, African fabrics and colors are increasingly embraced and accepted as beautiful. It is now fashionable to wear African prints in an updated look.

There are also new trends driving the change in the course of bridal fashion.

“More and more brides are open to dyed fabrics and are looking for the use of alternative materials, colors and styles,” Mr Muriithi said during an interview at his boutique in Rosslyn Riviera Mall, Nairobi.

Her latest creations incorporate cotton and linen because brides are looking for comfort. Some of her clients, mostly in their 20s and 30s, also completely abandon the idea and aspects of the traditional wedding dress.

“I’ve dressed brides in crop tops, jumpsuits, palazzo pants and cropped wedding dresses. I’ve also designed colorful wedding dresses: a baby pink and a baby yellow and red dyed in an ombre finish “, he shares.

“I once had a bride who wanted to wear black. She changed her mind just because the church refused to marry her.

Bridal fashion is also influenced by changes in the institution of marriage. “Brides who remarry or those in a polygamous union request unconfirmed clothing,” he reveals. The price of a bespoke dress from Anthony Muriithi starts at 45,000 shillings and takes a month to deliver.

Bespoke dresses offer the timelessness, functionality and versatility that today’s brides appreciate. So the one-dress type of fashion is losing its luster as brides look for dresses that extend beyond the wedding day.

They design with the future in mind. Bridal clothes that will be perfect for a date, a special evening dress or that can be incorporated into everyday clothes long after the “I do”.

“Wedding dresses come with a lot of emotions. This is most girls’ dream dress. I expect to see more changes in cut, color and fabric as brides become more expressive,” Mr. Muriithi says.

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