- October 4, 2021
A young, self-effacing girl lifts her hand up. The occasion is a heated teens’ debate, either side is arguing out their points. As a volunteer with the Personal Development Challenge team, I am the moderator. Leaders are made and not born. She is for the motion.
In that sea of hands raised, I must have picked her because throughout the session, she had remained under the salt. By choice. Okay, the silent girl has her hand up. Minutes to the close of the debate. Let me pick her.
When she speaks, she’s unmistakably well-versed. Competent. Eloquent. Each word rolls out of her tongue, more fierce than the previous. Why the (bleep) wasn’t she chiming in all the while? Her team loses, as psychologist and Qazini’s master sculptor of self-mastery articles, Steve Muthusi, reads out the scores on behalf of the panel of judges.
Now, look what you’ve done, little girl. I think. Maybe, just maybe, if you spoke out throughout the debate, your team would have won. Emeli Sande’s music Read All About It comes to mind. The specific lines are:
You’ve got a heart as loud as lions…So why let your voice be tamed?
You’ve got the light to fight the shadows…So stop hiding it away
After the session, she walks to where I’m standing, to say thanks for the session, and for the talks. They have inspired her. She tells me that her name is Roseline.
“Rose, like the flower?” I ask. That gets a chuckle out of her. She nods, and then I add, “I’ll call you Lynn. That’s how the last bit of your name sounds. But I’ll keep in mind that you are a Rose, too. Great speaking back there, but I wish you were bold from the start.”
More chuckles. “I was scared, but in the last minutes I had to speak.”
And on that day, during personal development talks and debates for teenagers organized by the Personal Development Challenge (PDCtalks), at Christian Church International- Thika, I made a new friend. She was going back to school the next day, for her final term in high school. Fashion and Design, she told me, was what she wanted to pursue in campus. She hoped to see us visit again after schools closed, so I could tell her more about careers, now that I was about to clear campus and was exercising my love for storytelling. Her hope never materialized, though.
Roseline Njoki was a singer, and designer, already doing something with the little she had. But what awaited her down the line?
About five years later, I caught up with Njoki. This time, not the shy girl anymore, but the founder and director of Waridi Afric Designs, a fashion and design startup. Intrigued by the immense growth in a space of about five years, I wanted to find out more about her journey.
Roseline Njoki makes our personality of the week. Here’s my chat with her.
How do you describe yourself?
A creative, innovative, and visionary twenty-two-year-old girl with a passion for design. I am a fashion designer by profession.
What’s that one story from your childhood you still remember?
I was in class one. There was this girl, my classmate, who came from a less fortunate family. From the stories she told me, her step mum was cruel. I’d listen to her sad stories and they would…touch me. If you know what I mean. I suggested to my mum that we adopt her, and maybe back then I was mad when we didn’t, but looking back I now understand that it isn’t easy to just adopt a kid. I would ask mum for extra cash, which I would use to buy a cup of porridge for my friend at school. Porridge was sold to us during break time. One day mum came to school and learned of how I was spending the extra cash I kept pestering her for. She was so proud of me. From then on, she gave me money for two cups of porridge.
That was kind of you.
You could say that. It also made me realize that I loved charity work. Apart from fashion and design, uplifting others is what I do best.
Have you always loved fashion and design?
I’ve always loved fashion. I loved it as a kid, as a teenager, and even now I still love it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I go for playful looks and edgy ensembles. I love pieces that are colourful and outspoken. Also, I loved drawing design sketches even before I took the course at campus. So I knew what my area of interest was.
Last time we met, you were about to finish high school. Walk me through your journey since then up until now
After high school, I had a very meaningful talk with my dad about careers, where I expressed my interest in fashion. He agreed, that it was best I pursue my area of interest. What a supportive dad I have! In 2018, I enrolled at Michuki Technical Training Insitute, in Murang’a county, where I pursued fashion and design. I graduated in 2021, February and was employed at a fashion firm in Thika. It was while doing this job that I decided to get creative. I started making my own designs. An Ankara tote handbag was my first creation. Dad saw it and loved it. He encouraged me to think big, and that’s how my fashion brand Waridi Afric Designs came to be.
Tell me about Waridi Afric Designs
Waridi, a rose flower in Swahili, comes from the shortened version of my name, Roseline (Rose). I started it in March 2021. I work with a team of three. We make both men and ladies wear, mostly Ankara. Our love for fashion, and experience, ensures that our designs are trendy smart and classy without trying too much. Currently, we are in Thika, Kiganjo, meaning we have to make deliveries for orders outside Thika.
Where can someone see your work and how can they place an order?
Our Instagram handle is @waridiafric and Waridi Afric Designs on Facebook. We take orders on our social media platforms. For a tailored fit, the client sends their actual measurements and then we begin the work. Delivery is made one week after placing an order. We offer free delivery in Thika and Nairobi CBD. In our infancy stage still, we are exploring more delivery systems as we grow.
How does it feel like to see someone wearing your designs?
It feels great but also very humbling. It’s evidence that dreams do come true.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’ll mention Fashion Africana, as well as Kambua, the singer. I love her taste.
A book you love?
I’ll say Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I keep re-reading it. Quite a good book for financial literacy.
Your parting shot?
Whatever happens in your life, don’t you ever give up on your dreams.
After encountering Roseline Njoki I placed an order for Ankara bowties. So the next time you see me looking sharp, like I’ve jumped out of a red carpet TV show, think about Roseline Njoki and Waridi Afric.
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