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Meet the next top fashion designer in Kenya

Orphaned at the tender age of six and forced to flee his war-torn homeland, 27-year-old Jean Claude is now making a name for himself as one of the top fashion designers in Kenya.

Having at one time been compelled to work as a houseboy for his relatives after the death of his parents, the Burundian national’s story is literary that of rags to riches.

However, the journey to launching a successful career in a demanding and highly competitive profession was never easy for the self-taught up and coming fashion designer.

“The first time I stood next to a sewing machine was back in Bujumbura. I was 16 years old then and I had to carry the machine on my head every evening because we lived in a rough neighborhood. That’s when I fell in love with designing,” Jean reminiscences.

Musician Kidum wearing one of Jean Claude's designs. PHOTO | COURTESY
Musician Kidum wearing one of Jean Claude’s designs. PHOTO | COURTESY

“After a few years, I decided to come and visit my uncle in Nairobi. That was in 2010. I have never looked back. I love Kenya because the country is peaceful and people here like African designs. Also, establishing a private enterprise back in Burundi is very difficult and that is why I decided to set up shop here in Kenya,” say the designer who admits his love for Senegalese and West African designs.

Regardless, his business venture in Kenya has had its fair share of challenges.

“When I started doing embroideries here in Kenya, I faced many challenges, from not being paid at the end of the month to being threatened with deportation if I asked for my money from my employer,” he recalls.

But through resilience and determination Jean managed to overcome these challenges.

CELEBRITY CLIENTS

“In the fashion industry, consumers want you to show them something that interests them. So you have to be quite creative. But there’s a huge amount of interest here. The stuff that I design are stunning and consumers are always looking for new things,” he says.

Jean’s talent has seen him enlarge his clientele to include local musicians and TV presenters.

“I’m glad to have designed clothes for top musicians and TV personalities here in Kenya. People get surprised when renowned musicians come and packs their car outside my small shop and asks me to design outfits that they wear during shows.”

Enid Moraa of Citizen TV's gospel show Rauka wearing Jean Claude design. PHOTO | COURTESY
Enid Moraa of Citizen TV’s gospel show Rauka wearing Jean Claude design. PHOTO | COURTESY

Among his celebrity clients is Nairobi-based Burundian musician Kidum, Citizen TV’s Rauka show presenter Enid Moraa, gospel musician Evelyne Wanjiru.

“I would one day want to see my designs being showcased in one of Kenya’s fashion shows. It would be a great privilege to see a model wearing something that I have sat down and designed,” the 27 year old says.

“My thanks goes to Citizen’s David Makali and his wife for giving me the opportunity to be where I am today. I am on my feet because they gave me the opportunity to build myself and to be able to start my own small business.

“My vision is to pass on the knowledge to anyone who is interested in African fashion. Being an orphan, I also want to help the needy as much as I can,” he concludes.

Anyone interested in his designs can visit Jean’s Facebook page – Comeseefashions – to view his works.