To inaugurate our interview series of leading female entrepreneurs, Biashara sat down with Ruth Abade; founder and CEO of Blackfly. She invites us on a journey into her life by discussing how she began Blackfly, her fashion style and her views on the fashion myth.
Biashara: Before starting Blackfly, did you have any previous business experience?
Ruth Abade: I had some experience when I was working with Dawn Creation and later with an NGO called Terra Nuova. I took part in many programs that focused on artists, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and there was a partnership we did with Nairobi university that taught me a lot.
What fears did you wrestle with when you started your business?
(Broad smile) No fear at all. The only thing that was important to me was survival.
Fear of survival, perhaps?
I don’t think about ‘what if it doesn’t work’. I always think positive even when the challenges am facing tempt me to think otherwise.
How did your experience at Dawn Creation set the foundation for Blackfly?
My experience at Dawn Creation taught me many things; the ability to understand and work with different personalities, setting targets and putting myself in the shoes of the consumer so that I provide unique products that can create a niche in the market.
Describe your time in Italy and how it influenced your clothing line?
I was in Italy for a year and in school for three months. The name of the school was Scuola Del Cuoio. Italy gave me a vision and an opportunity to collect many ideas and try them out in Kenya. The ideas I had revolved around dress styles and fashion personalities.
Fashion is embracing ‘going green’. Apart from recycled leather, what other recycled products do you use and what made you start to use them?
I love the concept of ‘going green’. I love the challenge of transforming something ‘bad’ into something wonderful. I use recycled materials for many things like belts, skirts and the inside material of bags. I’m also working on a project for recycled shoes. Hopefully, we will have the first batch of recycled shoes soon.
Wonderful! Will I get a pair?
(Laughs) You’ll definitely get a pair!
Who is your role model in the fashion industry?
(Pensive smile) My role model is Karl Lagerfield. He’s a French designer for Chanel and has his own label. He is very retro and eclectic. He is very particular, attends all his fashion shows and his commitment to excellence is admirable.
5 words that describe your own fashion style.
Oh God, mine? Let’s see…tom-boyish, horrible, different, comfortable and simple. For me, it’s comfort first. T-shirt and jeans are my easiest options. Many people call me a tom boy and I don’t really care what others think as long as I feel comfortable. I dress for myself more than for others.
Help us clarify the myth, they say women in fashion date men in passion, is there a Mr. Blackfly in your life?
Am not married yet but I have a passionate man in my life.
If you could design for a celebrity, who would it be and why?
I wouldn’t design for a celebrity. At some point, I considered it but changed my mind. I want my company to embrace all people but don’t want to market my company through people. I want my company to grow but not in a mainstream way.
What advice would you give aspiring female entrepreneurs who yearn to be self-employed?
Follow your heart! Everybody has an opinion but your heart has the facts. If you don’t try, you’ll never know if an idea will work or not.
Want to know more about Blackfly?
Visit the Facebook page: Blackflydesigns