Label Love: Hamaji
I´m totally in love with Kenya based bohemian apparel and accessoires label Hamaji. I mean, how amazing are the pieces the beauties are wearing in the pics above!!?
Hamaji, meaning Nomad in Swahili, was created by Kenya born and raised Louise Sommerlatte. Her collections of ready-to-wear jackets, waistcoats, backpacks and handbags have an eclectic nomadic spirit meet boho traveller feel.
But to find out more about Hamaji have a look at the interview I did with lovely Louise below:
So who is behind Hamaji? And where do you call home?
Louise Neoma Sommerlatte is behind Hamaji. I am the founder and designer for the label.
Home is Kenya for me, where I grew up on our family farm on the foot hills of Mt. Kenya ( the second highest mountain in Africa) This is where my new Hamaji studio is now based. I struggled for many years as to where i called home, spending 6 years living in Cape town and traveling around a lot it was difficult for me to say; Cape town holds many dear friends of mine, but home is where the heart is- and thats Kenya
What gave you the push to create your own label?
After I graduated from design college in Cape Town, I applied for various designer jobs here and there but very quickly realized I wanted to start my own label and use the potential I saw to create a brand that would support local artisans in Kenya. I wanted to stem away from mass production and focus on real craftsmanship, of which my graduate collection was also based on. I didn’t want to be just another designer behind another big label.
The initial spark to starting my own label though came from times during college where I started making leather bags for myself that I wanted to have but could never afford; I was often approached by people on the streets and friends asking me where I got them from.
Tell us about Hamaji and the Kenyan artisans you work with and support!
Hamaji, meaning Nomad in coastal Swahili is a brand created around preserving ancient textile traditions and craftsmanship while empowering and supporting local small scale artisans in Africa. All the materials are sourced ethically on our travels from up-cycling to vintage and new.
The hand crafted ready-to-wear jackets, kimonos, waistcoats, backpacks and handbags reflect an eclectic nomadic spirit, combining textured prints with embroidery, hand beading, leather and traditional nomadic amulets.
I work with a variety of artisans in Kenya at the moment. James, who is the powerhouse behind Hamaji creates most of the garments. His expertise lies in shoe- making but I have trained him up over the years sharing my design knowledge with him. He now has a significant understanding for fashion design, basic pattern making skills and sewing, together we see the process from start to finish. I work with a womens group in northern Kenya mainly nomads from the Samburu ethnic group, they do all the hand sewing and bead work which is an integral part of their heritage and culture. This way we support the continuation of this beautiful craft, which is slowly dying out due to their interaction with modern society. I also work with Nigerian tradesmen in Nairobi from the Tuareg nomads in Northern Africa, they source all the beads, trinkets and nomadic amulets at annual desert festivals. I try and keep it as local as possible helping support the people directly around me first. I also wanted to train people in doing so, to share my design skills i learnt at university, as they too share their timeless craft and style with me that has been passed down from generation to generation.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Fun-loving ; Independent; Warrior
What are three words you would use to describe the women that wears Hamaji?
Free- spirited ; Colorful ; Bohemian
Who and what inspires you?
I am inspired by all Nomadic tribes of the world, I am in awe of their traditional craftsmanship, their abilities to travel for many miles across deserts with their animals and belongings. I love how they trade art for food and craftsmanship is such an integral part of their culture.
What are you most proud of?
Starting Hamaji on my own I suppose with no help, or funding and watching my business slowly grow 🙂 Its still very small but good things take time and its my baby that I am really passionate about.
What does “being free” mean to you?
Do what makes you happy and you will feel free everyday…
The mantras you live by…
Open your heart.
You are energy, and whatever you give power to becomes real.
You create your own reality by feeding into it, turning it on, you manifest it by creating this dream in your head and then putting effort into telling yourself stories about the way you desire the experience and outcome.
This world is your greatest canvas, do beautiful, conscious and mindful things with it.
Where will the next stamp on your passport be from?
India; I hope to make it for the Pushkar camel fair in November, to continue traveling around afterwards sourcing materials and craft for Hamaji. Also to visit to Udaiphur where my father grew up.
Everyone should at least once in their life…
Take the old train from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi to the lush tropical beaches of Mombasa through the East African bush. Colloquially known as the Lunatic Express, the rail was first built in 1890. The typically colonial carriages have a unique charm and climbing onto the roof top at night to watch the stars as you slowly chug chug through Tsavo National Park surrounded by wildlife is a childhood experience ill never forget.
Do you have a dream project?
For now, Id love to participate in Africa Fashion week and showcase a collection there. Im totally inspired by the way African fashion is taking off worldwide and I want to be a part of that.
What’s your vision for the future of your brand?
To create a lifestyle around my brand- expand it in the right directions without loosing sight of my concept. To foster the essence of craftsmanship and traditional textiles, and keeping it African. To supporting the local people from Kenya and maintaining a slow fashion movement concept where each piece is unique to its owner. I want to keep my fashion ethical and sustainable.
Thank you so much Louise for letting us have a look behind Hamaji! ♡