Mohamed Awale makes backpacks, bags and accessories from up-cycled materials and locally sourced African fabrics.
Backpacks by Suave Kenya Limited are stylish and unique as they never use a fabric twice
Suave Designs is the brainchild of Stylish young indie-entrepreneur Mohamed Awale. After working in various corporate jobs after university, Mohamed decided to stop working for the man and start working for himself. He rented a small workshop in the notorious River Road area of Downtown Nairobi and hired three craftspeople and starting making prototypes. Suave Designs has now found a successful niche in creating colourful backpacks, satchels and laptop sleeves made from recycled fabrics.
“All the bags that we make are different and unique in their own way.”
The passion for buying locally made products is growing at a fast pace in Kenya, and these days, importers of designer handbags — both genuine and imitations — are getting a run for their money from local designers.
One of them is a young man who has developed a popular bag brand, which thrives on the idea of upcycling.
CGTN’s Maria Galang went along to Suave Kenya’s workshop earlier this year to see what makes these bags so special. The following is from her report:
In 2013 Muhammad Awale said goodbye to his 9-to-5 job at an oil company to focus on what he really loved: creating bags.
The 28-year-old invested all his savings into Suave Kenya, a brand which makes one-of-a-kind up cycled bags. “When I started off it was just out of passion and I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and a few months down the line you start getting those startup problems…capital and access to markets and all that. We just selling bags to friends who would appreciate them. It was a slower chain reaction whereby someone would buy based on seeing the bag with someone else.”
Almost 4 years later the brand has taken off and it’s especially popular among hip young Kenyans and stylish professionals. “So the basis of our brand is have unique products that is because of our up-cycled fabrics. So you have up-cycled clothes, jeans, jackets, shirts and turning them into bags, so that guarantees that all the bags that we make are different and unique in their own way.”
“So in the case where some of them are going to be slightly similar, we are going to have a small aspect that is different between the two bags.”
Suave Kenya makes roughly makes about 150 to 200 bags a month and over time the workers here have perfected the designs, making sure each handmade bag is made to international standards.
Geoffrey has been working here for over a year. He grew up around sewing machines as his father was a tailor. For years he shrugged off the trade as not masculine enough, but after an unsuccessful stint in construction he found himself back at the sewing machine. “When I came here I started to train bit by bit and now I’ve begun to become an expert on this.”
Currently the bags are available online and are stocked in Kampala, Stockholm, Frankfurt and London, and Mohamed is now focusing on tapping into even more African markets. “We try to show people that whatever we have here that is made here is better than whatever you will find from abroad.”
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100 Ways to Upcycle your old clothing
Whether you convert it into something more wearable for you or turn it into something completely different, the possibilities are endless with a few old clothes and a little imagination. Here are 100 cool ideas to upcycle your old clothes.