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Design makes us tick, say varsity students

When Bevern Oguk and Collins Karanja teamed up to start their company, CO-BE Inc, they were ready to take on challenges head on. According to Oguk, Kenyans love imported goods especially Western fashion.

“I believe in Africa, so I thought I needed to do something. I teamed up with Karanja, a fashion design student at Kenyatta University, we combined our expertise and have never looked back since then,” said Oguk.

Co-Be was started two years ago and designs clothes and accessories with the tag line; Timeless Style. “We make designs for all ages and we are not afraid to try out new things. Some of our products are also for the bold, something out of this world,” said Oguk.

He explained that an ideal Co-Be jacket would look simple, but sophisticated and timeless; an example is their plain white jacket with brass embellishments on the lapels.

Love for fashion

From left Bevern Oguk and Collins Karanja - designers of Co-Be Inc. Photo/Courtesy
From left Bevern Oguk and Collins Karanja – designers of Co-Be Inc. Photo/Courtesy

How did they get started? Karanja always had a love for fashion. He perfected his skill in high school where he used to sketch designs. “I saw fashion as something that I could pursue as a career. I really had a calling for fashion,” he said.

Oguk’s love for art began in primary. He pursued his passion in  high school where he was involved in exhibitions in galleries like Paa Ya Paa Arts Centre in Muthaiga.

He started focusing on fashion after realising that his talent was not being appreciated. “I always loved collage and I realised fashion design would be better suited to my creativity, especially by using fabrics,” said Oguk.

The two started designing as a hobby and their first products included ‘shamballas’ bracelets, and bow ties made of kitenge and kanga.

Celebs

Their most popular accessory was the African print snood which was worn by celebrities such as Octopizzo, Lelengoma and Bank Slave, a graffiti artist.  “We diversified from just making accessories to slim ties and bow ties. Our clientele grew bigger  when we started designing and making clothes,” said Oguk.

The two have learned to balance creativity and business. Keeping their designs simple but sophisticated seems to have won them a firm following, with 3,000 likes on their Facebook page, Co-Be Inc.

They have participated in events such as 254 Style, Nairobi Fashion Night Out, Cocktail and Bowties, Retro-Future Fashion event, Nairobi Street Fashion and  Strut It Afrika Fashion Week 2013.

“Our latest collection, Of Black Skins has 12 looks that express the African culture, but not using the too-obvious fabrics like Ankara,” said Oguk. Some of the designs include tunics, khaki blazers and pants, T-shirts, cropped tops, high-low skirts and not forgetting their signature accessory, the Co-Be Snood.

Aware that they are in a tough business, “one minute you are in, the next you are out,” as Oguk described it, they do it for art and to feel good. Their business can be summarised in one word, passion.