After winding through the labyrinth passages of popular TOI market in Nairobi, hidden behind Adam’s Arcade, you will find Ruth Abade. The workshop for Black Fly, Ruth’s fashion business is a beautiful sort of chaos characterized by recycled African fabrics ready to be prototyped and crafted into exquisite accessories and designer wear. With imagination, finesse, and attention to detail, Ruth has a master’s touch that turns a waste fabric into a one-of-a-kind make-up bag, laptop sleeve, or African jacket. Ruth’s team made me a custom yoga mat from these beautiful African fabrics that I absolutely love. Ruth recently became Kiva Zip Trustee as she wants to empower her fellow entrepreneurial designers that lack access to finance by providing them access to Kiva Zip loans.

The quote is from Nina Patel, a Kiva Zip Fellow. Kiva loans is a great way of empowering small businesses people with small finance. Nina recently helped us become a Kiva Zip Trustee, which gives us opportunity to help artisans that we know and trust to receive loans.

Read Nina’s full blog post in which she presents established and upcoming artists in Nairobi who have received Kiva loans.

And if you want to find our sort of chaotic studio at the TOI market, here is a map.

Fashion show

Blackfly participated in a charity fashion show and fair by the diplomatic spouses association at the French ambassador’s residence on the 4th of October. Our collection was inspired by the traditional clothes that the Barabaig people in Tanzania make. We also showcased our new designs, clutch bags and sleeves, which were well received.


Nairobi Garden

In a Nairobi garden with old friends and new designs.

Photos by Lars

The Hustle and Bustle

My  job as a fashion designer with a soft spot for recycling is interesting, but not as glamorous as one might think.  Most of the time it’s a hustle and bustle, walking for miles in crowded, noisy, muddy areas; scavenging through heaps of stuff discarded on the other side of the planet;  chasing down artisans or someone who might know where I can find this or that little item, and all the time trying to decide if this colour or texture or material will be fit for this or that project.

So the other day I ventured into what must be one of the world’s largest markets for mitumba, second-hand clothes, looking for leather for several upcoming projects. My friend Zoe came along. Our first stop was at John’s leather jacket stall. A couple of hours later we left with a hired porter carrying two dozen jackets to the nearest place where we could catch a tuktuk.

Come back in September and I’ll show you what we made of all this leather.