The Many Upcycled Zippers Bag

Re-blogging this nice piece by Sam Nkirote McKenzie from the design blog

Ruth Abade, the designer behind the brand ‘Blackfly’, is constantly experimenting to improve the quality of her bags. When I visited her workshop in Toi Market, near Adams Arcade, she showed me prototypes of several bags and took me through materials, structure and functionality. Ruth considers everything in her quest to create bags that are not only beautiful but also functional and durable.

Each Blackfly bag is unique. I first heard about Blackfly when I asked artist Maral Bolouri about her Bobea Bag by Blackfly. She told me: “everything is upcycled, even the zip!”

Ruth spent a year in Italy learning leather bag design at Scuola del Cuio before starting Blackfly Designs in Nairobi three years ago. With this experience Ruth can, at a glance, tell whether or not a bag is well made and if it will last.

Ruth upcycles the leather from leather jackets for two reasons. One, she believes most people in Kenya would like to own a leather product but often can’t afford it. Using second-hand leather helps Ruth to keep her prices down. And two, the leather in Kenya is often not processed in the manner required for bag making. It is often not soft or supple enough.

Ruth and her team bring an impressive attention to detail in everything they do – from painstakingly opening and cleaning the leather jackets they use to perfecting prototypes and storing materials. Offcuts of leather are neatly folded and pieces of leather too small to be used for larger bags are made into coin purses. And most recently even the zippers were used to adorn this fold-over clutch purse, creating a tassel-like effect.

Photograph by

Here are some places where you can buy our bags:

Blackfly’s studio/shop, at the Toi Market behind Adams Arcade in Nairobi

Nairobi Bag Factory at the GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi. This is where Michael Soi sells his famous tote bag and our clutch bags.

Moyo Tanzania, at Oyster Bay Shopping Centre in Dar es Salaam

Nanjala, Nairobi-based online shop




Blackfly in New York

We are proud to announce that we will be participating in the 44th International African Arts Festival in New York.

We’ll be selling our bags in up-cycled leather as well as a number of unique one-of-a-kind dresses, skirts and jackets in wax print fabric and batik.

Meet us in Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn July 2-5.

Check out the program, and the Facebook page.

Makatube Island

Yesterday we went to Makatube Island just outside Dar es Salaam with our latest clutch bags/tablet sleeves/pouches.

Products in this post:

Makatube Island trips can be organised by Kudura Mgeni. Photos by Lars

Peace and quiet at Maweni Farm

Short holiday at Maweni Farm,  an infinitely peaceful and  beautiful  hideout  in Tanzania, just half an hour drive up into the Usambara Mountains from Mombo on the  Nairobi-Dar highway.

I brought some re-designed clutch bags and a new prototype shoe.

Maweni Farm staff member Asha modeled.

Here is the new clutch bag design. Cleaner, with brass reinforcement corners.



Lake Magadi shoot

One day we decided to do a photo shoot; me, my niece Nicola and my friends Amanda and Kimatu. We planned to go to Lake Magadi and take pictures on the white saltpan, but we couldn’t get there so we ended up at a dead tree along a deserted tarmac road.