One of the things I admire about BATA is the way this global company encourages the involvement and contributions of local talent from the production countries around the world including Kenya. I also love BATA’s efforts to allow these talented professionals, and in particular selected members of the upcoming generation to shine in the limelight of public attention of high profile events. The Grand Finale of the very first edition of the BATA Apprentice Designers competition held recently in Nairobi, was the most recent of such events, and a festive evening enjoyed by the many invited guests as well as the four apprentice designer finalists.
The competition was launched in September 2017 when Bata’s President for Africa Alberto Errico welcomed four aspiring young designers to compete in designing affordable and innovative footwear designs. In order to start the project, Esther Kute, product development manager of Bata Kenya, had requested design schools from the University of Nairobi and the Technical University of Kenya to propose names of their current undergraduate design students and recent graduates, with priority given to textile, fashion and product designers. From the list provided, Bata Kenya chose nine of the designers interested in the contest, who were then invited to present their portfolios to a panel in Limuru in May. Out of the nine, four designers, Ian Abraham, Cynthia Allela, Moraa Nyabame and Steve Thairu – [Designers’ Profiles: http://bit.ly/DesignersProfiles] – were selected to take part in the competition.
The designers were expected to create and submit their own original concept without infringing upon copyrighted material. They were also encouraged to include aspects of technological innovation in their designs and were given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in designing for manufacturing and product development processes after having undergone training in basic footwear design in the Bata shoe factory in Limuru.
The January Grand Finale was their opportunity to present the fruits of their creative labour to BATA, the public and of course also the panel of judges which selected the winners with Cynthia Allela taking the first prize of Kshs. 50,000 – “a dream come true to have my design marketed by the continent’s biggest shoemaking company”, as she told Nairobi News. I was amazed with her highly original design concept which will soon go into production but also loved the work of the other three designers as displayed on the runway. A convincing testimony to the wonderful design culture of Kenya and how it inspires the work of young professionals.
It was an evening to be remembered for a long time by the VIPs present who not only admired the show of talent and beauty but also the inspirational management style of BATA Africa.