In the run up to our trip to UK (and so as not to make too many hideous clothes shopping mistakes such as the very mumsy dress mid length from Jigsaw that makes me look booby, and awful, and cost a fortune), I’ve become a ever so slightly obsessed with the fashion blog Does my bum look 40 in this to help guide me through (see below).
It’s super refreshing to relate to somebody who is roughly the same age (if not – very different figure) but still has a fun fashion sense, buys (largely) affordable stuff and has a great sense of humour (check out her Insta stories). She’s all about blazers over boyfriend jeans, fun tees, ankle boots and maxi dresses or skirts that you would never dream of picking up in a store. Layered jewellery, makeup, highlights and not a skinny jean in sight – just up my street. Oh to be released from the skinny jean!
However….the amount of sheer shopping involved is mind boggling. The trying on of clothes, ordering stuff, taking stuff back, putting together ‘looks’, going to events – to be honest, it’s all pretty alien to my life in Kenya. Of course, there are a handful of fab fashion bloggers here in Kenya who have their whole thing going on – but just cyber stalking this UK blogger’s Instagram account makes me realise (duh, as if I didn’t know) that the UK is on a whole other level. The clothes – oh the clothes!
It used to be the case that you saved up all your shillings for an annual trip back home in order to refresh your wardrobe and to be honest, this is still definitely a thing but you can certainly buy a lot more locally than you could before and I, for one, am grateful that I can run out and get a pair of trousers or top here, which makes me feel good and means less shopping pressure on precious trips seeing friends and family. (who am I trying to kid – of course I’ll be shopping, shopping, shopping given half a chance).
What irks me, is that buying clothes locally is often super expensive – and given the fact that I feel horribly guilty about forking out for a new lamp shade or bottle of wine or olive oil here in Nairobi – the idea of buying an unjustifiably costly item of clothing that may well equal a monthly salary for many people, feels horribly wrong. There are some incredible designer Kenyan brands, some of whom export but they are generally very expensive (I’ll blog about the cool Kenya boutiquey stores later) but thankfully, we’ve now also got a handful of affordable global chains who fill the gap for those basics that we crave (does anyone else wait a year before refreshing your pants and bras drawer? I used to – not any more). What’s annoying is that these cheaper, global brands charge significantly higher prices that you would expect back home due to the heavy import tax on clothing here. Sadly, you just have to suck the price difference up.
- You can find various branches of these big brand stores (below) spread around the larger Nairobi shopping centres: The Hub, Two Rivers, The Junction, Galleria Mall, Sarit Centre, Yaya Centre, Garden City Mall, Westgate etc.
- Bossini (Hong Kong/China) – This is a Hong Kong brand that sell coloured chinos, cotton shirts, tops etc. Kind of like Gap circa 1990. For years, I never thought of going in here, but once I did and tried some stuff on – I was converted. I now live in my black or khaki slim-line cotton chinos. Downside – much of the clothing is tiny, so I am definitely heading for the largest sizes on the spectrum (not exactly a confidence boost) and even in the larger size I have to breathe in.
Average Price range 3,000-5,000/-.
2. Woolworths (South Africa) – Remember that this is the South African Woolworths and no relation to the deceased UK one. It’s not unlike the UK’s M&S. This store has got it’s head around the conservative Kenyan style of dressing and there’s lots of great work stuff and smartish basics here. They also have shoes! There is more of a snappy/young dresser range but only available in certain branches (Yaya Centre has a big branch). They also do homeware. (it’s definitely worth getting their WRewards card as they often have offers).
Av price range: 4,000-6,000/-
3. Mr Price (SA) – To be honest many of their stores are a hot mess and the clothes seem extremely cheap, often creased and fall-aparty but the turn over is fairly fast and, after a good hunt, I have been super lucky with some pre-teen party dresses for my girls and cotton tops for me that look more expensive than they are. My preferred branch is at The Junction. A recent success was an off-the-shoulder white shirt that resembles stuff in the shops back in the UK at the moment. Kicking myself for not buying the blue and white striped one at the same time. Now they only have size 20 available.
Average price range 1,500-3,000/-
4. Florence and Fred (UK) – just dropped. There’s a branch in The Hub shopping centre. I am a little put off that this is basically Tescos clothing but they do have some good basics, sleep wear, trackies, underwear etc and you can be lucky and find something that looks more expensive. I bought a navy dress here that I thought I loved, knew I was paying so much more for it than I would have back home (4,500/-), then got it home (having ripped off the labels) and am now in hate with it. It’s too synthetic, the material flops around unflatteringly and it’s basically a sack. I forced myself to wear it to a party just to get my money’s worth then regretted it.
Average Price range: 3,000-5,000/-
5. LC Waikiki (French) Okay – so to be honest, I haven’t headed up to the gigantic Two Rivers mall to shop here yet, but I just can’t wait to get over there. They opened one flagship branch earlier this year but others to follow soon I’m sure. From what I can gather, it’s fast fashion that is a cut above Mr Price. Price range – to be discovered…
6. Levi’s Store – I do love to find gems here – but boy, it’s expensive (and sometimes hard to justify). You can buy a decent pair of branded jeans, skirts, great tops. The range is limited but they bring new stock in regularly.
Average price range: 6,000-10,000/-
Finally – there are the second hand clothes markets …. known locally as Mitumba where you can pick up used designer bargains and basics too. See post: Second hand clothes shopping in Nairobi. And, as I said, there are the fabulous boutiques that sell fashion that is designed and made in Kenya as well as imported stuff from places like India. I fell in love with a pashmina yesterday, but of course had to walk away when I saw the price tag 15,500/- (over 100 UK pounds, $150). What a craven soul I am but probably it was for the best.