I’m Anyango Mpinga.
I’m a fashion designer.
I’m based in Nairobi, Kenya.
I design a ready to wear luxury women’s clothing line for my brand ANYANGO MPINGA. I create wardrobe essentials for the sophisticated woman who is looking for something unique to wear; that is authentic and timeless.
I am a self-trained designer. I started off working in the media/communications industry, which in itself was quite exciting as it exposed me to interesting projects, which subsequently spurred me on to start my clothing line.
I was project director for a fashion week and I distinctly remember looking at all the beautiful clothes coming down the runway and I said to my friend…”I need to take my love for fashion more seriously. By that time I had started testing it out on a small scale, collecting fabric and making dresses for myself.
When I finally quit my last job in employment in Radio, I wasn’t very sure exactly how I would get my business going. What I knew for certain was that I wanted to pursue my passion and work in fashion. My journey has been filled with so much uncertainty. I had many moments when I didn’t know how rent was going to get paid as I lived on my own and even when I felt as though things weren’t going to get better, somehow my brand was growing and people were getting to know more about my work.
I made huge changes to my lifestyle to accommodate my business, which meant that I wasn’t always able to spend time with friends and family because when it came down to it, I chose to spend my money on that studio supply that I needed over a fancy dinner with friends. The more I grew the more comfortable I became in my craft and I understood the value of sharing my story as a creative through my work.
Have you found it difficult to enter your profession as a woman?
The one thing that stood out for me was when dealing with some of my staff. We live in a society, which is modern by any standards but traditionally there is still a perception of what gender roles should look like.
Most of my tailors happen to be men, who I work with based on their experience and expertise, so being a young woman and running a business without the support of man; because people assume that this is what defines you as an individual, has been interesting for me and trying to find a balance.
Did you have any help during your career?
I have had a lot of help. In fact I probably would not have come this far without the support of my friends. People who believed in me, saw my talent and chose to walk this journey with me. I have also had the pleasure of working with mentors who have been instrumental in guiding me and have had the pleasure of being part of programs that are geared towards nurturing creative talent.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
How hard it was going to be. I probably had not anticipated some the challenges of running a fashion business. I lost a lot, but also gained a lot in the process. I learned a lot though, and probably my biggest lesson to date is to not second- guess myself and to really value my talent and the ability to share it with the world.
Often enough it’s the people around you who perhaps battling with their own insecurities, project these feelings towards you and fill your head with doubt. I learnt how to make a clear distinction between constructive criticism and down right negativity. I lost a few dear friends along the way when I finally decided to shake off the dead weight. I hadn’t anticipated that happening. I spent too much time worrying about whether my work was good enough because I listened to everyone’s opinion and I let people who don’t quite get what its like to be an entrepreneur in the creative industries, influence me in a way that left me discouraged sometimes.
If you could talk to your younger self now, what would you tell them?
Well considering the fact that I am still young I will share with you my daily mantra, which helps remind me of why I do what I do. I say its okay to not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, you can’t control everything. Keep falling in love with the person you are becoming. You will discover things about yourself every so often and the more you appreciate these things, the better you will be at identifying what works for you and what doesn’t.
Speak your truth and be assertive when it comes to your business, people will either value what you stand for or they won’t. In the end you really want to keep people who understand what you are trying to achieve. Don’t underestimate the value of your talent. Ask for what you want and get paid for it, men do it all the time and no one questions it.
Who has most inspired you and why?
Michelle Obama. She has been a passionate voice on many important social issues. She has been vocal about the importance of creating awareness around mental health issues and the stigma around it, she has spearheaded campaigns on the importance of education for all, pushing for equal employment opportunities for women in the workforce; a voice for children’s rights and youth empowerment. She is a role model for women around the world and a fashion icon to boot, not to mention a fantastic dancer.
When it comes to the fashion industry I have to say Diane Von Furstenberg is the most inspiring person I have come across. You can’t think about a wrap dress without thinking about DVF. She has created a strong brand with an aesthetic that fashion enthusiasts the world over can identify, and she kept her brand sophisticated and accessible.
What tips would you give someone just starting out?
Don’t pour money into full collections until you’re ready financially. You’re better off designing classic pieces as you build your business rather than trying to compete with the fast pace of fashion consumption imposed by bigger brands.
I would say do your research on your target market and what your clientele wants. You can’t please everyone and you won’t have a product for everyone, so the moment you decide who your product is for, then you spend time making sure that you continuously improve on the service you provide.
Find partners and collaborators who can support you and help you grow. There are people who have come before you that know things about the industry you want to break into which you don’t know. Figure out who they are and learn from them.
Stay original and share your story through your work, people will appreciate your authenticity. Manage your time wisely and be prepared for when opportunities come knocking. Take more risks and experiment, it’s the only way to grow.
What was the best piece of advice anyone gave you?
Everyone’s afraid of something, the most important thing is to figure out how to let go of these fears so they don’t stop you from living the kind of life you were put on this earth to live.
What inspiring quote to you love and where does it come from?
I am Baha’i and one of my favourite quotes is centred around creativity and the arts.
“The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity”
Do you use any useful apps, systems or websites that you would like to share?
I subscribe to the Business of Fashion, which is a great source of information on what’s going on in the fashion world.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
LAUGH!!!!! Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and bring out your inner child. Life is fleeting……don’t take yourself too seriously….