Kenyan designer's foray Into Hip Hop's sleek world

Kenyan designer's foray into Hip-hop's sleek world.

Jamhuri Wear designer Kimathi


Life has never been so good for this youthful Kenyan designer, who in a short span of only two years has managed to get, as some of his clients, the biggest names on the bustling American hip-hop music scene. 

Enlisting international celebrities as customers is certainly the dream of even the top designers around the world, as these idols are big spenders who live lavishly. But Jeffrey Kimathi, a 28-year-old Nairobi-born designer and publicist, who has his own increasingly popular urban clothing line, Jamhuri Wear, is already living that dream and nowhere else but in America.

The stars who don some of Kimathi's jerseys and T-Shirts, include 50 Cent, arguably the biggest name in American hip-hop today, Akon, Dead Prez, and Wu Tang Clan, and actor Keith Murray, among other celebrities.

Born and raised in Nairobi's South 'C' estate, Kimathi's dream was to become a top-notch clothes designer, but he did not know where to begin until some two years ago.

Says Kimathi: "We have been fortunate enough to have Dead Prez, Akon, 50 Cent, Hardstone and Jabali Afrika endorse our designs."

Emblem and colours

His contemporary urban wear T-shirts and hoodys retail on his Web site, for between $20 to $60.

"Our best-sellers are the badge of honour T-shirt, which carries the emblem and colours of the Kenyan flag, the Dedan Kimaathi T-shirt, which is our way of honouring a man who gave up his own life for us to gain freedom," says Kimathi.

He may not be well-known back home but in the United States, Jamhuri Wear, is fast gaining popularity.

Started two years ago by Kimathi and a friend, with the seed capital coming from their little pocket money in college, Jamhuri Wear aspires to win the recognition accorded to labels such as Fubu, Ecko, Sean John, Bad Boy, Fila, Nike, And 1, Phat Farm, and other international brands.

In Nairobi, the well-known personalities who don Jamhuri Wear, include popular disc jockeys Pinye and Adrian.

Kimathi's success has not gone unnoticed in the US. He has also been featured in two top American entertainment magazines, Vibe and XXL, which often carry the stories of leading artistes like Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, R. Kelly, Nas, Fat Joe, Eminem, Russel Simmons, and P. Diddy.

Vibe magazine, in its annual fashion issue in, picked Jamhuri Wear as one of its favourite brands. 
XXL magazine, in its April issue, also picked Jamhuri Wear as a "fashion item to look for in their brand new flavour page". 

Hip-hop's latest sensation, Akon, whose roots are in Senegal, wore the Kenyan designer's outfits on the shoot of his latest video, Ghetto, which is playing on MTV.

Jamhuri Wear also fetes Kenyan athletes like Timothy Cherigat, Benjamin Kimutai, and a few others.

Kimathi, who lives in New York, is also the public relations manager for Ecko Unlimited, an international clothing line.

He says that the Jamhuri T-shirt, which has a lion symbol, is meant to honour the heroes of Kenya's independence struggle.

 "We started out with very little, as we were both still in college. We are a very young company and are still learning from our mistakes. But we're happy with our success, so far," says Kimathi.

The Jamhuri merchandise is currently only available through the Web site.

But by next year, Kimathi hopes, the clothes will be stocked in some stores to give the clothing line more visibility in the market in the US and beyond.

He has managed to get the celebrity clientele because his job at Ecko Unlimited enables him to interact with international personalities and show them his designs.

Kimathi hopes to open a Kenyan branch of his company in Kenya soon.

A good fabric

Says he: "Returning home is one of our long time projects. Hopefully, it will be possible in the next couple of years as I feel we do have the manpower and resources to create a good fabric market and produce garments, hence creating jobs and income for Kenyans."

His message to up-and-coming designers whose dream is to gain entry into the international market is to believe in themselves and take any chances.