While working as an hotelier, Carol Pulei noted her love for fashion was growing stronger with each passing day. She speaks to RUTH MWATHI on taking the plunge into the world of design and achievements thus far, including dressing the President.
My interview with Carol Pulei begins with a warm welcome at her shop, Naneuleshan, at Adlife Plaza in Nairobi’s Kilimani area. The spacious room is fitted with a remarkable setup of different tailored suits well displayed on the walls of the shop. Adding some flavour to her workspace were photographs of iconic pieces she had designed for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Why fashion design?
It was my hobby as I worked as an hotelier. I was really passionate about fashion designing and thus quit my job in 2013 and began to fully focus on it.
Why focus on men’s apparel?
When I started out, shopping for men’s apparel was difficult and most of the shops in town were concentrating on women’s apparel. That’s when I decided that to concentrate more on men’s attires although I make clothes for both genders.
Do you create your own designs?
Yes, I create and make my own designs. I also import clothes.
What’s your favourite part about being a fashion designer?
Giving a client a personalised touch. For me, sitting down with a client and understanding what they want, what they love, their favourite colour and design makes it quite enjoyable. It’s also fulfilling seeing a concept come to life.
How do you come up with an incredible masterpiece?
Once I have spoken to a client, I get to understand what they like most and that gives me ideas on what to work with, for example, if you like a certain colour, we work with that and show you some designs we can work with to achieve what you want.
How did you become the President’s stylist?
I actually met the President through the Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who was my client. I gave him a shirt to take to the President as a gift as I wanted him to look different during his campaign. I estimated the President’s size. I had seen him during my days as an hotelier in the hotels where I used to work and also on TV and I knew what size to work with.
Do you have a favourite piece out of the pieces you have done for the President?
I have two; the one he wore when he was being endorsed as the Jubilee candidate at the Bomas of Kenya – it was a white shirt with Ankara print – and the one he wore during the opening of the Standard Gauge Railway.
Is there pressure that comes with designing for societal figures?
Yes there is pressure because the design has to be unique. You have to ensure that any piece you do for these figures, for example the President, is what he likes and is comfortable and yet it has to be one of a kind.
Any disappointments from clients that the work hasn’t come out the way they wanted?
Not really. Probably the only complaint we have received from clients is late delivery, though not always. There are days we have so much work that we end up giving the client their clothes a day or two after the deadline. But in terms of design, they are always satisfied. The quality of our work speaks for itself.
Other achievements you have had in this industry?
I have been able to dress other dignitaries. Currently, I am in talks with Malawi to dress their President for the upcoming election campaigns. I have done a few samples for them and I hope they approve. Also, I now have three shops.
What is in the future for Carol Pulei?
I hope to do something on mentorship of the boy child and write a book, as well as share the stories of people who have been supporting me so that the boy child can have examples of people to look up to.