Know your Speaker Series30/01/2019
African Speakers + Artists is proud to present Know Your Speaker, a one-on-one series in which we get to know more about our signees and what they are up to.
To kick it off, we caught up with Ann McCreath – Managing Director of KikoRomeo, a heritage lifestyle brand and Founder of FAFA (Festival of African Fashion & Arts) which has become a global platform for African designers.
- What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am doing a very interesting training program with the ITC, Mitreeki Program. I wrote the curriculum and am now implementing it. It covers the essential things fashion designers and entrepreneurs need to grow their businesses. I am applying my early teaching skills, using a lot of role plays, pairs and group work. I started with bringing out their individual values and passions and helping them define their unique DNA. The results have been amazing as people are working together and sharing. This is pretty much unheard of in the Kenya business scene, where traditionally everyone views the other as a competitor and enemy.
- What does 2019 look like for you?
As regards KikoRomeo, that is also in strong development. We cut back everything in 2017/8 to rebuild in our favourite spot – arts and culture. 2018 saw us regularly dress Blinky Bill for stage, and increasingly we have been noticed by international celebrity stylists. We will continue to develop our product with handmade textiles and traditional craft skills in Africa incorporated, as we love the soul to hand connection. We will show again at Dakar and Lagos Fashion Weeks, and hopefully FIMA in Niger. It’s definitely time for a new groundbreaking show experience in Nairobi, so watch this space!
- What has been your inspiration/ who inspires you?
Traveling in general, but particularly Africa. Everything handmade. Fine Art. Music. Friends. Clubbing.
- What’s the biggest challenge facing the creative industry right now?
In Kenya, it’s thinking everyone is a competitor as people often only look at the tiny space around them, usually Nairobi. Even spreading out to the counties changes a mindset and when you start to think regionally, continental and then globally life changes. Get out there, travel, meet completely different people and things change significantly. Don’t get bogged down in little mind thinking. I think its biggest challenge is breaking negative thinking to work together strategically to enter new markets. this can only be done by first identifying your unique brand DNA so you don’t feel threatened.
Although most creatives struggle with adequate funding, I tend to think that if we worked together on production and or marketing, things would be a lot easier. We also need to be cross-sectorial within the arts and outside, that also makes things a lot more interesting. So let’s focus on collabos and uplifting each other.
- Which 3 topics are you passionate talking about? Why?
Fashion – I’ve been a fashion entrepreneur living and working from Nairobi for 22 years. I know a huge amount about producing in Africa as well as retailing from my 20-year experience in Nairobi – some things change, but some are constant.Teaching – any age by bringing out the individual. (I have experience in teaching English as a foreign language prior to doing fashion and teaching technical fashion (including to people with whom I don’t share a common language).
Breaking down stereotypes – I am a global citizen and can get on with most people.
- Who would you love to see speaking in person, and on which topic?
Many people, but my favourite is Lulu Kitololo – a very enlightened soul.
- What 5 books are on your reading list for Q1 of 2019?
Honestly speaking I don’t read much. I currently have Homo Deus, It’s Our Turn to Eat, sitting waiting, but I usually return to Ikigai and The Prophet to refresh my mind. I also like looking at my art & culture books, though I don’t read them as such.
- What’s next?
More exciting travel, fashion projects, and fascinating people.
- What mantra do you live by?
I don’t have one, I try my smile instead.