Artisan Spotlight: Meet Terry


Today is the first day of #FashionRevolution Week! Tomorrow, on Fashion Revolution Day, I will dive into what Fashion Revolution is, why it’s important, and how you can celebrate it!

But today, I wanted to kick off the week with the story of a very special lady,

I’ve been working with Terry since I moved to Nairobi last August. We were connected through a company that I used to work for. They wanted to partner with her on manufacturing headbands to be sold in their store and to possibly wholesale if the headbands proved to be a success. I was to facilitate and manage this process since I only live an hour away from Terry.

Terry is a designer. She has an eye for patterns, colors, and styles and she loves to experiment to see what is trending and what she personally prefers. My favorite part of this experience was shopping at the textile market with her for different types of fabric. She taught me about the most popular types in Kenya:

Kitenge (Ki-Tane-Gay)
Kitenge is what most people think of when they see a brightly colored, “African-looking” fabric. Kitenge is a wax print and usually has a repeated pattern throughout the fabric. The Kitenge fabric is the most expensive to purchase. It’s incredibly stiff but if its washed with fabric softener a few times, it makes it easier to sew.

Mandera (Mahn-Dare-Ah)

Mandera is a traditional Somali fabric, usually printed with a monochromatic color scheme of bright colors and bold patterns. In Kenya, the most popular colors are pinks and blues. This fabric is made from light cotton and is incredibly soft. Locally, Mandera fabric is used for the Dera dresses (pictured on the left); my personal favorite style. Terry is actually in the process of making me a Dera dress out of some beautiful Mandera fabric she picked out.

Kanga (Kawn-Gah)

Kanga is made from extremely hard and firm cotton and originates from the coastal Swahili women. This fabric is locally used for lesos which are pieces of Kanga wrapped around the waist like a sarong. They use a leso to protect their clothes while doing household chores. Kanga is similar in style to the Kitenge, however it usually has one bold square pattern in the middle while having a coordinating border around it. Today, Kanga is used as a major fabric in African fashion.

Terry is the epitome of an empowered woman. She is a single mother of six and has not only kept her children in school with the incredibly expensive school fees, but has also kept herself in school. She has her own business as a designer and works very hard to provide for her family.

Many women around the world give up on their dreams due to kids or husbands or just life in general. Terry has been able to live out her dream and still be the sole provider for her family. She’s had setbacks including her ex-husband completely destroying her new electric sewing machine (jealousy of her success without him) resulting in using an early 1900’s manual Singer but she hasn’t allowed those things to hinder her from pursuing her dreams.

One day, Terry hopes to be even more successful with her business and would love to train and employee more women to work for her. She has already mentored two women who assisted her with the current headband order. Terry’s immediate goals include moving to a new house with brick walls so she won’t disturb her neighbors while sewing and continuing her education.

If you would like to know more about Terry or how to partner with her, feel free to contact me via email
“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” 
– Venus Williams


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