Wednesday, 4 June 2014



So i had the previledge to interview the phenomenally talented Barbara Kiama, she such a pro' at what she does its hard to ignore her, plus with a heart to give back and help others. So without wasting your time, meet Barbara...

1. Who is Barbara? 
I am a fashion and jewellery designer by proffession with a six years experience in the Kenyan fashion industry and a strong believer in creating quality, unique products at affordable prices for the common man.

2. At what point did you know Jewellery was the direction you wanted to take?  
After graduation from Evelyne College of Design in 2009, I discovered that there was a market for unique handmade jewellery pieces. Kenyan women were tired of having the same jewellery as everybody else and the unique jewellery pieces were sold at a higher price for the privileged few. I did my research on what the market wanted; unique custom made jewellery that is simple, sophisticated and affordable.
I was also giving myself time to discover myself as an Apparel Designer, there was so much I wanted to do but I knew I had to specialize in one category-women’s wear for a mature market.

3. What was your first investment?

My first investment was a white Janome Sewing machine from River Road that was both manual and electric. Even if the lights went out I was still able to work.

4. Tell us a brief description of your journey in this career?

The journey has not been a walk in the park. Reality slapped me in the face a few months after leaving college. I realized things weren’t going to happen in one year and success wasn’t going to be handed to me on a silver platter; I had to work, suffer and sacrifice for it. If there is one thing I learned over the past six years was to be Patience. A wise crafts lady told me in order to make it in the Design Industry, you need to give yourself five years and she was right. Running a successful business will require years of strategic planning which required me to be patient. I always keep in mind my long term goal; running a profitable business. It will all be worth it in future.

5. Have you had moments you wanted to quit? Tell us if any?

And what drives you to just keep on? Quit? NO. Doubt myself? YES. I opened a boutique store early last year but the turnout was so low considering the amount I spent on marketing I couldn’t believe it. The poor turnout made me doubt myself at one point but I later realized I simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I literally could see my ship sinking so I changed strategy. I let go of the boutique store, got a workshop instead and a now sell my products online. It is human nature to question yourself when things go wrong but in business, all you need to do is change strategy and you’ll be fine.

6. What has been your major challenge and achievement?

Finding qualified and reliable labour is the biggest challenge. The qualified people are not reliable and unfortunately the reliable once are not qualified. My brand is built on quality and that is one thing I cannot compromise.
My biggest achievement was the Barbara Accessories photo shoot 2013 promoting people with albinism through fashion- the second photo shoot of its kind in Kenya. I was honoured to be part of the color kwa face campaign in 2012 raising awareness on people with albinism as a jewellery and apparel designer. It is a cause I truly believe in and decided to personally support through fashion every two years. My next photo shoot will be in August 2015 and it will definitely be bigger and better than the last one.

7. Which celebrity have you always wanted to wear your pieces and has any worn them? Kindly name :)

I was horrified by what Vivian Cheriyot wore as she was presented with the Laureus world sportswoman of the year 2012. Hopefully, I will one day be honoured to make her an outfit.

8. Most important lesson you have learned so far and you would want other in this field to have in mind?

Be smart and do your market research before you sign up for any fashion event. Learn to think like a business person; do not follow the Brand of a fashion event. You’ll be surprised by what you find. There are many people in this industry who are making money reaping off designers because they know what young designers are interested in is the “Image” of a fashion designer. Before you sign up for any fashion event, ask yourself this question; am I guaranteed to get my money back? If your answer is no at the back of your mind, think twice.
I have spent a lot of money on fashion event and I can tell you for a fact I have never gotten a profit from them. That is why I decided to stick to the Maasai Market. The rates are affordable and I am guaranteed to get my money back.

9. Where can customers find your pieces? or at the Adams Arcade every last weekend of every month.

10. Parting shot? 

A Fashion Designer is just a fancy name for a Business Person. A business person does not gamble with money, learn to prioritize what is important for your business and what you can do without. Start small; don’t spend money on the image of a fashion designer, learn how to make money first. Start from ground zero and gradually grow your business over the years.
The growth of your business should be like that outfit or piece of jewellery you’re currently making. If you rush it, you will make a lot of mistake and you will have to start all over again. Learn to be patient.

Thank you Ms. Kiama :)



Ms. Shee