Located in the depths of one of Africa’s most vibrant metropoles, amongst the asphalt trees, resides a gem. The heat of the day is merciless as cars queue, like people at the bank, all headed towards the city center. I revisit my iMessage exchange with Evans, digging for information regarding the location of his store.
The text reads: “1ST FLOOR SOLAR HOUSE ALONG HARAMBEE AVE”
There’s this feeling of urgent commerce, merchants selling, buyers negotiating, I walk up towards a staircase leading to the store, the walk is no bore. A salon conquers majority of the building, the people are youthfu. The energy is creative and business is booming! I give Evans a call, we link and he walks me into his store, and that is when I first physically encounter - NAD™
The store is cozy, the aesthetic is mellow, a red light gently illuminates the room, the walls are decorated with art, courtesy of Evans. An iconic Lupita Nyong’o painting invades my memory. He invites me to have a seat, he then unveils a clothing rack containing NAD™ merchandise, from jeans to jackets to tees, all unique in themselves.
But it’s the jackets that catch my attention, they all have this uniqueness to them, a visible one. The denim jackets had been customized with paintings and/or images that were patched onto the back of the jacket. The paintings are by Evans, who is an aspiring artist in his own right.
NAD™ has been able to grow rapidly. Having established itself as an official street brand approx. 3 years ago, has been able to attract a following a large following and stellar reputation in Nairobi.
As I pondered over this, I decided to give Evans a call, and attempt to pick his brain on everything NAD™.
Our conversations begins with a lengthy back and forth consisting of pleasantries. Once beyond that tide, Evans quickly jumps into who NAD™ is.
Initially founded by Orinah, simultaneous with the birth of ARKND™ (who launched this series last month**<<sentence can be link to article). Today they have been officially launched for approx. 3yrs and in that time, have gained an Instagram following over just over 10,000 followers. That number is impressive, more so the method of digital presence.
With no official website, NAD™ has relied on their social media, we discuss this in detail. It's here where Evans goes on a celebratory rant, in which he hails the Internet and all the doors it's knocked down.
“The internet has allowed for to do so much, it really made things easier!”
Going off of Evans, the Internet has allowed for customers and business to directly communicate.
So in regards to NAD™, a platform like Instagram allows for potential customers to view the product and furthermore contact NAD™ via a DM.
As Evans puts it, “we all about that, slide in our DMs”
The receptive and responsive nature of NAD™ is the reason Instagram has remained its main platform. Therefore, why break what’s working?
This takes me back to that overarching theme of the DIY approach Nairobi creatives take.
It is becoming evident as I continue to explore the Nairobi Streetwear scene, that the group of creatives, in this industry are all well defined. The roles are set, the scripts are written and the show is currently ongoing, in Evan’s words, “it's a full circle out here”yet my stubborn curiosity cannot engage with such an analogy without mention of the audience.
The formula taken by NAD™ focuses its emphasis on its clientele. Currently the clientele is the creative industry. Having only officially launched in 2016, NAD™ has been able to forge tight bonds with the creative community. From collaborations with other brands, such as the “Non-Televised™ Collection” with ARKND™ (covered in Episode One of this series**<<sentence can be link to article) to custom pieces for creative individuals, to collaborations with a cause.
We extensively discuss these collaborations. Evans expresses NAD™’s emphasis on originality and uniqueness.
“So the people who approach us are mainly artists, or people in the creative industry. People who are looking for something specific, something you cannot find anywhere else. We are all about self-expression, we want people to come to us not to look for us but to see if they can find themselves. We just provide the energy”
This statement takes me back to Afro’s (founder of ARKND™) classic critique on what seems to be the basic Nairobians style, “rocking fake OFF-WHITE, thinking they fresh”
This seems to be the general feel amongst these creatives, this disengagement from the mainstream, it appears deliberate. As though these brands have decided to brand themselves in this way, I ponder whether this is a good or bad thing.
Evans gives his take,
“I agree with Afro...but I’m personally not too bothered, because for me it's all about understanding yourself”
An artist at heart, his thoughts cannot be orchestrated by commerce, this is not to say he does not acknowledge and strive for the BAG! but rather points at the mantra, the DNA of NAD™; creativity.
Having begun painting in 2013, Evans found himself in the right place at the right time. With the founding of NAD™ fermenting in front of his eyes, courtesy of Orinah, Evans creative curiosity led him to experiment. This experiment has now turned into one of the core identities of NAD™. With his stroke of genius, Evans has for the past two years been spearheading the idea that garments are canvases, in a literal sense! He has taken two creative disciplines and molded them. This unique identity has allowed for a strong bond to be formed between the brand and the creative industry. A relationship that seems to have elevated NAD™’s reputation.
This is co-signed by Adelle Onyango’s decision to enlist NAD™ to create a collection for an important and personal charity event she hosted in support of cancer. This for me is a testament of this unbreakable brand-client relationship. A testament of the trust clients have gained for NAD™.
As I continue conversing with Evans, I take note of what he is creating. Again my stubborn curiosity seeks,
Evans observers me staring at his action, I excitedly ask whether we’re to expect a new collection, this is his cue to inform...
“It's going to be a tribute, rather celebration of black icons...right now I’m doing Wanagri Mathai!”
Despite all this progress, there is a harsh reality the industry faces. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. Now that would seem suitable in reference to Kenya, but jokes aside, the mainstream market and industry are not on the same page. I pick Evans brain on the topic, where does he see Nairobi Street Fashion in the next 2-5years.
The mood slows, the room zooms in. I can tell, a truth bomb is about to drop.
“To be frank” Evans begins, “we have a long way to go! But the optimism is in the potential! Cause for sure the world needs to watch out for Nairobi! Cause we, the kids! We onto something”
Despite the words, there seems to be a sense of relief in Evans tone. I ponder on my earlier rhetorical, as to whether the industry deliberately shuts put the mainstream, and according to Evans...
“That's deliberate. The lean towards the creative community. We understood very quickly that the general public may not be ready at this given moment. And That's okay, so we saw creatives as muses we could use to display our garms. The initial hope was if you see so and so rocking NAD™ you may be inclined but our lean towards the creative community has meant a sacrifice in commercializing the brand in full force. Don’t get it twisted though, we want a bag! We just understand the waters we are treading”
That’s an opinion, we at Tangaza share! This understanding that, right now, our grind, as creatives in whatsoever way, might be creating product that's ahead of its time and that's not to praise our efforts as creatives but rather to point at the functions of the current market, the lack of infrastructure, etc.
Evans, shares strong opinions! A realization that such passion, such vim! Is needed in order to succeed in this industry. Evans knows himself above and beyond, under his alias smokethenemesis, he becomes Samo-esque! You woke woke, if you got that reference.
NAD™’s latest collection, is my personal favorite. The collection celebrates black icons in the most NAD™ fashion possible. The king of jackets himself, you should know by now flipped several black leather jackets into notable art pieces. A tribute to figures such as Fela and Basquiat, the collection is yet another limited drop from NAD™. The method is becoming familiar.NAD™ have acknowledged that for now, the mainstream is very far from reach, therefore they have pulled their strength from within the industry they reside. The creative industry, musicians, artists, photographers, fashion stylists and enthusiasts etc. have all received NAD™ with open arms. With their healthy business-client relationship, NAD™ has been able to not only survive in the context of their industry, but thrive. I personally see no reason for NAD™ not to go above and beyond. With creatives such as Evans, and Orinah taking the wheel, their combined hustle mixed with their genius creative direction, sprinkled with a strategic approach will no doubt cook up projects that will satisfy for years to come.