Rosa Agutu

Rosa Agutu

Rosa Agutu is African by all standards. She’s dark, tall and well-endowed with African legs, hair and shape. The first time I saw Rosa Agutu, she was rocking a black-fitting dress and Ankara Kimono. She looked fabulous. The following day, her natural fro was delicately covered in Ankara headscarf.

Two years on, Rosa still wears African designs every waking day. As the world marks African Day, curious me sought to find out why the girl born and bred in the coastal city of Mombasa cannot leave the house without a touch of African fashion.

What would you wear to a hot date?

For a casual date, I would rock a pair of jeans, tank top and an Ankara Kimono; or I would simply wear a floral dress. A fitting dress, heels, jewellery is my go to look for a hot dinner date.

Three things that people don’t know about Rosa Agutu?

I love reading books more than watching movies. I just finished Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda, it was a quick read. I want to have a collection of African literature. In my bucket list, I must visit the Hamoni library in Mauritania and the famous Library in Timbuktu, Mali.

The second thing about me is my love of cooking and hosting. I host people a lot and yes I am a good cook.

Rosa is also a basketball fan. I would wake up at 3am to watch an NBA game. I am currently excited about the Basketball Africa League in Rwanda.

How long have you worn African designs?

Officially since 2015. For six years now, I haven’t left the house without an African touch. I feel incomplete without it.

When did you discover this?

Growing up, my mother would add a touch of African on most of my outfits, so as I grew older I started doing it myself. But my mother still played a big role because she would make African jewellery and bags for the both of us. When she received good feedback, she started selling on order.

I remember in 2017 when our church had a cultural day and my tailor ruined my dress. On the actual day of the event, I had no dress. Thanks to my mother’s creativity and quick thinking, she fixed my dress with offcuts from the tailor and it was the best dress ever; everyone at the function was envious.

Talking of tailors, who makes your clothes?

I use two trusted tailors here in Nairobi.

And where do you shop?

I buy the African stuff, mostly tailor-made or Online; non-African outfits are mostly thrifted. But the interesting bit is that I receive lots of gifts from people. These are mostly earrings, bracelets and head scarfs. They are yet to gift me 11m African print materials.

When was the last time you wore non-African designs?

Full non-African? Good Lord! I can’t even remember. Probably 2014. I have learnt how to accessorize my look with African accents.

How do you do it; don’t you get bored?

You can’t get bored with African stuff, whether it’s music, food, art or clothes. But I always accessorize. Sometimes I can rock a formal dress and accessorize with an African print headscarf and jewellery. When I am wear jeans and T-shirt, I layer with an African print overcoat.

Any particular reason you are saying yes to African outfits?

I am a dark-skinned African Woman, self-proclaimed Queen of Melanin. I want people to see a proud African Queen when they look at me.

What’s the long term plan? What message are you passing on?

Long term plan? Who knows maybe I will start designing my own stuff or follow in Diana Opoti’s footsteps and do something close to 100 days of African fashion. The message I am passing on is, we are Africans. If we don’t embrace our own culture people will claim it and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Tanzania, Nigeria have one day in the week when they promote local designs: what’s wrong with Kenyans?

I think we are getting there, one step at a time. Gone are the days when African fashion was associated with old school ladies. These days, we rock the print to work, business meetings, galas even cocktails.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Rosa Agutu is a night owl.