Cleopatra Wanjiku, 24, is the brains behind Pabaa Collections. A brand that celebrates its love for Africa through beadwork and Ankara. She speaks with Manuel Ntoyai
Manuel Ntoyai @Manuel_Ntoyai
Talk to us about your brand. Pabaa Collections began two years ago, but it wasn’t until early last year that things really took off.
What do you specialise in making?
We make Ankara bags, shoes, clothes, beaded accessories, shaggy floor mats, crocheted bags — generally, anything African.
How do you market your products?
Online marketing and customer referrals have been our main avenue to publicise the business.
We post our products online so that our potential customers can be able to see them as well as introduce them to new products. We’ve been able to get numerous customer referrals, and I believe that speaks a lot on quality.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Getting people who truly appreciate and embrace art has been a challenge. We’re hoping to sensitise the market — there is a misconception that a lot of African products are expensive. That is not always the case.
What’s the one thing you always tell your clients?
When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you’re buying a piece of a heart, soul; a piece of their life.
What is art to you?
Art is one of the purest and highest elements of human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye and eye through the mind.
What gives you the satisfaction in your business?
Nothing gives me joy and satisfaction than seeing a final product after days of errors and mistakes. It’s fun playing around with fabrics of multiple colours (kitenge) and beads, making mistakes, redoing and finally getting it done.
Who are some personalities you have dressed?
Annita Raey of Radio Jambo, Kimintah of Maafleva and many others, Amina Abdi and Muthoni Mukwiri, to name but a few.
I was recently nominated in the Sir Antonio Productions Awards as designer of the year.