The Visionary Daniel Mungai Njung’e

Daniel is a consultant fashion designer for many major UK retailers the likes of Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer. He consults too for a few independent boutiques like Chest in Hare of Edinburgh and Present London. His job is glamorous and involves a lot of travelling for market research – fabrics and trends. He’s been in the business for over 14 years. Daniel is young enough to be trendy and old enough to belong to the lost generation. The lost generation is a group of people, I baptised without water, born in the seventies and eighties and who came of age during the worst economic times in Kenya. Most of these people had no choice but to leave the country in search of water and green pastures.

Most parents of this generation wanted their kids to become doctors, lawyers and engineers, anything less was a disgrace. However, Daniel’s parents were visionaries just like he is and liberal in thought. They encouraged him to pursue his passion when most parents in that era were actively squashing dreams that they deemed unworthy. Once, I heard of a boy whose father threatened to make him eat his art if he ever found him drawing instead of solving mathematical problems. Daniel’s main advice to parents is to please listen to your children, observe them, nurture them, appreciate their individuality and support them as they pursue their dreams and fulfil their passions.

Daniel is a great supporter of the arts and cultural heritage, but he has observed that one of the greatest calamities of modern times is the lack of continuity and maintenance of heritage. Our government, for example, has ceased commissioning great artists on cultural artefacts and sculptures. It appears that these artistic talents are looked down upon as less than and not deserving of funds. Daniel is a great believer of upholding own beliefs too, and the importance of monitoring what is taught to children while inspiring and motivating them without brainwashing. Parents and adults should have the ability to differential instilling personal beliefs and teaching children to be independent and open-minded.

Daniel is a philanthropist and supports a lot of causes e.g. Amnesty international, Autistic UK, and Crisis – a homelessness charity – which he volunteers his Christmas break for. He is an avid environmentalist and believes in the protection and preservation of natural habitats. He believes, and plans to lead as an example, that fashion designers should create ethos in line with preservation and protection of the environment while making a living for self and others fairly. His greatest role model and icon on this front is the Nobel prize winner Wangarí Maathai. The selfless Kenyan woman who fought tirelessly in a male-dominated tyranny to start a movement for environmental conservation and rights of women.

Daniel was born and raised in a middle-upper-class suburb of Nairobi, Kenya. He comes from a small family and he is the most down to earth fellow you’ll ever meet. With encouragement and support from his parents, he pursued a fine arts degree at Nairobi University and pursued another degree in fashion design at the De Montfort University in the UK. He’s gone on to become the man he is today.

Daniel lives by the motto, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ and his greatest inspiration is Mother Teresa and Thomas Sankara. He advocates for forgiveness as the only way for one to move forward and his role model on this front is Nelson Mandela, the great-spirited forgiver. Daniel’s greatest fear for humanity is the effects of inept leaders who are weak and greedy. If it was up to him, all leaders would be selfless and altruistic and be like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Sankara and Dedan Kimathi to name a few.

Daniel is working towards creating his own label, and if Debenhams’ stuff is anything to go by, this guys stuff will fly off the walls – move over Ralph Lauren!! His collection saw the catwalks of the like of Face of Kenya.

Have you ever considered the environmental or social impact of your purchase power when you walk into a Primark store or Prada? Ever wondered, in depth, why Primark, H&M or Select prices are so different from New Look or Next? Ever considered what factors play a part in making these decisions? These are some of the questions Daniel would urge all of us to think about before we decide to make a purchase. Cheap mass-produced clothes mean dubious production in most cases and pollution of the planet.

That said there are several other factors that may influence a decision to make a purchase, e.g. how important is it to buy that blouse, those trousers, that jacket or skirt for £5 or £100 i.e. Primark vs Prada. Do you consider the company’s ethos or the price? Daniel is very passionate about fashion but very consciously aware of most people’s limitations in making a choice – there’s more to it than ethos and price. His advice is for people to be well informed, educated, inquisitive, humane and mindful of the environmental and social impact of their consumption. This might be hard for some people than others. It would serve humanity well if people asked themselves simple questions – how many handbags can I carry at one moment in time, or how many cars can I drive at the same time, before making these consumption decisions. People’s attitudes should change and be considerate of others whether they are next door neighbours, or thousands of miles away.

One of the biggest challenges of this industry is changing people’s mindsets and attitudes. This is more evident in the process of sourcing materials and workforce. In some parts of the world, ensuring the company’s ethos are adhered to, or terms of employment are fair, or human rights are observed always is hard and sometimes unenforceable. In underdeveloped countries, where it’s a dog eat dog world, the people entrusted with making sure the company’s ethos are adhered to, are the ones undermining their own colleagues or subordinates. Sadly, the mentality and mindset are that this is the norm even for the ones being treated unfairly.

As with most careers juggling personal life and professional life is a job in itself. Since there are no guarantees in life, therefore, enjoy whatever you have going and be the best you can be. Be nice to people because everyone is going through a battle you know nothing about. Be considerate and always weigh the consequences of your actions.

On trivia – talking to Daniel I learned about how the kitenge came to be. A long time ago, BP (British Petroleum), set up shop in Africa, as we all know. They didn’t want their employees wearing rags aka traditional African gear to work, so they decided to make clothes for them using the by-products of their business. Wax. And therein kitenge was born – we learn something every day.

Coming soon…. Creations by our very own Daniel – label to be decided soon. Watch this space.

2 Comments

  1. Wow a most inspiring narrative ! Daniel is definitely a modern trend setter and a role model to young people everywhere. I wish more young people would get to read his story. I love this!!!!

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