India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Fashion
September 01, 2017

Hidesign X Joy Kendi: A Collaboration That Doffs Its Hat To Kenya’s Maasai Tribe

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

India’s premium leather brand ropes in top blogger Joy Kendi to present a long-forgotten side of the Kenyan clan

Sequestered in India’s southern haven of Pondicherry, having taken great strides in the leather accessories department, Hidesign has successfully reinvented itself to pique the fancy of millennials since the last two decades. Founded by Dilip Kapur in 1978, the brand prides itself on its commitment to craftsmanship and innovation, frequently introducing new designs to its portfolio. These, like the collaboration with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast last year, enable it to effortlessly woo and win the loyalty of the younger lot.  That being said, Hidesign has also struck and maintained a sweet relationship with its mature consumers with its ode to heritage crafts and environmentally-conscious tanning techniques.

Over the last 40 years since its inception, the brand has expanded impressively, launching 84 exclusive stores in 25 countries besides being retailed at premium international outlets like House of Fraser, Myers, Stuttafords, Parksons and Robinsons and Isetan. So it came as no surprise when Kapur, who also doubles up as a designer for the brand, collaborated with Joy Kendi, one of Kenya’s top lifestyle and fashion bloggers to launch a collection which would highlight his reverence for the country’s Maasai tribe. It was inspired by his travels to the land of savannahs earlier this year where he was impressed by the warriors’ grace and harmonious coexistence with nature. He felt the only way to do justice to his interpretation of the Maasai was by getting on board someone who would embody the fierce spirit of the tribe. This is where Kendi stepped in. The blogger flew down to India for the launch of the collection which hit stores today and we could not help but be transported to the grasslands as we gazed at her gorgeous ebony skin and closely cropped hair while interviewing her.

Excerpts from our interview with Kapur and Kendi:

What can we expect from the Maasai collection?
Dilip Kapur: “Excitement is the word I would go with since it’s our attempt to exhibit the global nature of the brand. It’s our way of saying that we are not only inspired by Western trends and that we absolutely do not support whitewashing. This is the fourth time I’ve been to Kenya and the Maasai tribe has always fascinated me with its exotic looks, strong identity and proud demeanour. Although most of Africa has been Occidentalised, the Maasai people have retained their essence which is evident from their ensembles with traditional embroidery and their sense of colours. I’ve steered away from stereotypical interpretations of the tribe and included contemporary shapes with subtle influences like colourful bead work on detachable guitar straps.”

Joy Kendi: “Many people are under the misconception that Africans are very dramatic with their colours and prints but traditionally, we’ve always been very simple. Our designs were clean in earthy tones and constructed from hides and animal skin. The bling and vibrancy were introduced by succeeding generations who embellished their jewellery with beadwork and metals. My collaboration with Hidesign is an attempt to bring back that simplicity in all its glory and educate people about the true spirit of African design.”

What drew you to each other for this collaboration?
DK: “I met Joy during my last trip to Africa when I was setting up meetings with bloggers to keep abreast of the various trends in African fashion. She immediately struck me as intelligent and, confident, and the perfect representation of the modern Kenyan woman. It dawned on me that whenever we think of bloggers, our minds sub-consciously veer towards European, American and Indian bloggers, completely ignoring a part of the world that is steeped in tradition and culture. We’ve also recently launched in Africa so I thought it’s important for us to present a face that will resonate with our consumers there. Additionally, Joy has already written multiple blogposts for the brand and she carries one of our iconic Hidesign bags as well. We value the authenticity of this relationship.”

JK: “Honestly, I’ve never really been one of those girls who salivates over bags. But that was until I met Dilip and he introduced me to Hidesign. When he told me about their scrupulous processes and techniques, I was quite impressed by the assiduousness of it all. I then visited their factory and saw that the brand actually walks the talk when it comes to handmade designs, which is a luxury for the modern world since we are so accustomed to substandard products from China. I saw how every bag was carefully crafted by hand from scratch and employed vegetable tanning instead of its widely practised chemical counterpart. All this at a great price point, and I was sold!”

Are you going to extend this collection to shoes and garments as well?
DK: “At the moment, we’re only doing bags but I wouldn’t say that this thought is set in stone. I travel a lot and I am exposed to new ideas and influences. What I would absolutely love is for Hidesign to be accessible to the entire world. I think it’s a nice vision and I would like the world to know what premium leather feels like at an affordable price point.”

JK: “I don’t mind that it’s all bags right now because I’m in love with their boxy ones! I just found out that they have a honey-coloured one; before this, I was only aware of the dark brown variant since I own one. I wasn’t big on small bags earlier because I’m a hoarder who walks around with receipts from three years ago and never changes her bag. Hidesign introduced me to smaller renditions of their bags and I’ve been enjoying them thoroughly. I especially adore the tiny ones which can only hold a phone, lipstick and maybe a card, at best.

H0w will you continue to maintain Hidesign’s relevance for the millennials?
DK: “I don’t think we need to connect with millennials as much as we need to strike a chord with their lifestyle and values. We already know that Gen Y and Gen Z are very career-oriented, so we always try to approach our design from that lens, keeping the bags functional as well as trendy. We also focus on the well-travelled global individual which is why you see a Hidesign store at almost every primary airport in the country. Our values of being environmentally-conscious and using green tanning methods also attract the attention of the conscientious consumer.”

Joy, what do you plan on doing while you’re in India?
JK: “It’s my first time in India and, although it’s hard to believe, I’ve come with absolutely no plans. It’s one of my pet peeves that I don’t want to be a typical tourist when I travel, so I definitely won’t be heading to the Gateway of India or the CST station. It’s like going to Paris and having the Eiffel Tower as the first place to visit on your itinerary. Absolutely not. I’m just going to ask the locals about the popular restaurants and places where I can get a taste of the true spirit of India.”

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