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Thrift Social has managed to take Kenya an alternative high

From the ambience to corporate social responsibility, Thrift Social has managed to give Kenya an alternative high, as well as taking the thrift culture overseas, writes

Alfayo Onyango

Thrift Social began as a charity function by fashion and music-savvy sister-brother duo Velma Rossa and Oliver Asike better known as 2manysiblings, where revellers could enjoy vibes orchestrated by the organiser’s brilliant taste-making skills. At the same time, the event helped to pool resources in food and clothing to benefit residents of Jacaranda Home, a centre for the less fortunate.

“The concept came up in 2013, as we felt the need to fill a void that was lacking in Kenya’s creative industry. There was no space or event providing a platform for creativity and the exploration of fashion, music and arts.

2manysiblings, as a collective, wanted to create an atmosphere in which vendors not only exhibit and sell their products, but also network with creatives and tap into the changing tide that is the Kenyan culture,” Asike aka Papa Petit tells Spice.

“The first time I heard of 2manysiblings was in 2013 through a friend who had been following them on Tumblr. I paid close attention and in 2015 when they announced their first gig with the charity side to it, they won my heart and I was willing to support them in any way possible,” says Wambui Wangui, a Thrift Social fanatic who has attended every of this event.

Catchy themes

The cornerstone of the event lies in its themes. Each edition has a different concept and from the moment it started as a small soirée plan where creative kids in Nairobi could link up with photographers, musicians and thrifters, the event managed to cross over to UK as one of the first bi-national events.

Taio Tripper on the decks during a Thrift Social event.

“We have held two Thrift Socials in the UK. The first one was in Brighton and hosted by Brighton Museums after 2manysiblings was featured in a book called Fashion Cities Africa, which interviewed different art and fashion collectives from Africa with the culmination being the launch of the magazine and Thrift Social event.

The second time was in London at the invite of the African Centre under a British Council grant. The theme for the London edition was ‘Future Trends’, a look into a utopian future where fashion and architecture from East Africa combined to create new ideas,” says 2manysiblings.

From exploring aesthetics in sneakers, denims, camouflage, future trends, colour-blocking, Made in Kenya, the latest edition will attempt to pull tie and dye clothing. Their themes are always fun and give their parties more life as they create different conversations and challenge stereotypes.

The most outrageous fashion decisions are made when attending the gig as the wildest imaginations come alive at the freak show. The gig’s non-conservatism nature has helped it attract a huge fan base.

The music

Since the first edition, the curators of the gig have always kept it alternative in terms of music selection. They tend to go for niche and outlandish performers that have distinguished taste in music and aren’t too mainstream.

The first deejay to play at the event was DJ Rojney, a renowned Nairobi-based Kenyan rock musician-cum-deejay. Later, they would find a rhythm with former Camp Mulla member DJ Taio who has played in almost every edition followed by DJ Mix Master Lenny. Together, the two have been a staple to the event.

To ascertain their edgy artiste line-up, the second edition lined up Sauti Sol’s member and producer Savara Mudigi into playing a DJ set only cementing the eclectic nature of the event. Among the musical highlights in the gig’s history have been rapper Shappaman, who performed his EP Wildlife
, uniting with Just A Band in the event’s fifth edition, The Night Market. Nigeria’s Burna Boy’s visit in 2018 to perform to a sold-out Mashujaa Day crowd at Uhuru Gardens was huge. Another nostalgic moment was seeing Kenya’s most successful boyband Sauti Sol headline the third Thrift Social anniversary alongside South African Shekhinah and American neo-soul artistes Oshun in the Made In Kenya edition.

“I honestly had no idea who Oshun were and only had plans of taking my girlfriend to see Sauti Sol for her birthday. But we ended up enjoying their set more than any other performer that night,’’ music fan William Massenke tells Spice.

From the Elephant on James Gichuru Road to the mise-en-scene Rosedale Gardens, to the exclusive settings of Privee Club in Westlands, the demand for Thrift kept erupting. It had to end up at the most popping socio-cultural joint in Nairobi in 2017, The Alchemist.

However, the masses could not get enough and the need for venues as big as Uhuru Gardens and The Waterfront were soon being sought. These would offer expanded spaces for fashion and food vendors and for musicians such as Barak Jacuzzi shooting music videos at the event.

On March 3, this year, Dubai-based Nigerian ragga sensation Santi of the Alte crew is expected to grace the event with opening acts DJ Taio, Mix Master Lenny, songstress Wanja Wahoro and upcoming female rapper Bey T. It’s set to be a tie and dye affair at The Waterfront in Karen.

“I’m excited to see Santi and his crew bring their energy to Nairobi. The fits people will wear and the line-up is just a perfect match for a special affair, so everyone should tell a friend to bring a friend,” says DJ Shishi.

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