The first time I came across Co-Be Nairobi was when they had a sale on their brass bracelets (which are part of my favorite #MustHaves) I remember so vividly walking into Java Kimathi and meeting a team of 4 young individuals discussing about business and different things. Bevern was in his signature hats which has today transcended into the Boguk Hat.
I decided to find out more about their brand and in the following months as fate would have it, our paths would cross so often. From Thrift Social Nairobi, where Collins was a fashion sensation with his turban look , to the launch of Fashion Torch Africa launch by Wilkings Fadhili.
Based in Nairobi, Kenya the Co-Be Nairobi brand is quickly becoming a household name, taking the fashion scene in Kenya by storm. Having recently been featured on various publications and platforms. I was lucky enough to get the chance to share their story with you.
1. What is Co-Be Nairobi? Why the name Co-Be Nairobi?
Co-Be Nairobi is a fashion design house based in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. We specialize in reinventing urban active wear for seamless everyday living.
Co-Be Nairobi is derived from our names; Collins & Bevern
2. How did you come up with the idea of starting your own fashion brand?
It all started in 2011 at Guadalupe Catholic Church in Adams Arcade where Bev, proficient in the arts and Collins who had a knack for fashion joined forces and Co-Be was born.
3. What is the signature style of Co-Be Nairobi?
We can say our signature style is chic minimalist that transcends conventional gender lines. We are big on Athleisure as well.
4. Can you tell us about the design process? Of the clothes and jewellery?
We have a calendar of activities that dictate when to do what. For the ready to wear lines, both clothes and accessories, we start with a theme e.g a season like Valentines / Christmas, then we do research followed by fabric sourcing then settle on what items to make.
5. Who is your client?
A Co-Be Nairobi client is one who isn’t afraid to express themselves. We design clothes not for a particular age group or economic class, but for people who are in the know, fashion wise, who subscribe to the ideals of modern, minimalistic living and don’t shy away expressing this through their clothes. We target people who live the active lifestyle; work hard, probably two or three jobs or incomes, eat healthy, work out and chanel lots of love. People who follow their own rules and aren’t sorry about it.
6. Who are some of your style icons (locally and internationally)?
Public School NY, Recho Omondi,
7. What are some of your worst experiences while pursuing your dreams and how did you overcome them?
Nagging clients and the ones who keep changing their minds after every 5 minutes. The clients who expect haute couture treatment for ready to wear prices. These have to take the cake on this one.
Dodgy clients can be annoying as well . The solution is to continue learning every day , find ways to seal the loopholes and better the processes. You simply have to keep going.
The other problem is classism in the fashion industry, but that's a story for another day.
8. What is the most challenging bit of being an entrepreneur?
Ask any entrepreneur about their challenges and the first thing that pops up is capital/finances. We are no different. Our worst experience to date is getting a loan, thinking the said amount was enough for all your needs and then some, only for you to be proven otherwise by the business. This can be quite heart breaking and embarrassing, but you have to push through and keep at it.
9. What is the most rewarding thing about having your own brand?
Living our dream. As challenging as it can be at times, we know we are growing something big that will be still around long after we’re gone. Inspiring our peers and proving that it can be done.
10. What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Getting featured in blogs and articles from West Africa and Europe.. We also got invited to show at the African Fashion Week Barcelona this July. Working with our local stars has also been a highlight, having the likes of Muthoni The Drummer Queen, Mark Masai, Adelle Onyango and other public figures in our phonebook is no small feat.
11. How do you disconnect from work? (whine down)
Collins: I enjoy a good time out with friends on the weekends.
Bev: Mmmh.. random stuff. Basketball, researching, reading, listening to music. I also value time just doing nothing, away from all the noise.
12. What do you think of the Kenyan creative industry as well as that of their consumerism culture?
Collins: I can say it’s a good time to be a creative in Kenya at the moment, in all facets of the industry, I feel there’s growth and people are really thinking outside the box and engaging the public through their crafts.
Bev: There’s definite growth. I feel we still have a long way to go though, in terms of structures that will benefit the creative sector, from legislation, to creative associations, financing.. there’s still so much to do. I however feel that people focus too much on hype and PR forgetting to build a good product to back it up.
13. What are some of your dreams for the future (as an individual and for your brand)?
Collins: Have a workshop where we’ll train young single parents, orphans and other vulnerable youths the process of garment making. Once trained, they’ll have the chance to work for us or go out and start their own businesses.
14. Congratulations on your new collection and new items. Any teasers of what more we should expect?
Thank you. All we can say is keep your eyes peeled for something uber cool coming in the not so many months.
15. Where can our readers purchase Co-Be Nairobi merchandise? Do you have a physical store or its solely online?