If you haven’t heard of Conkrete Roses, an aesthetically pleasing brand, then let me introduce you to the creatives behind the brand. I sat down with the best friend duo to talk being in business and to learn more about their growing brand.
When did you guys start?
S: Actually it’s been two years. Today* is our anniversary.
How did you guys decide to start the business?
K: We both moved back from uni doing our own thing but it really wasn’t taking off. So we met for coffee one day and we were both complaining about our struggles. We’ve known each other since middle school and we would always joke around in high school that we should do something so it naturally happened after us complaining and struggling.
We all have those conversations with our friends and they don’t really go anywhere but it’s great that you both managed to do it. So are you both passionate about art?
S: Yeah, we’ve both been doing art since the beginning of high school. I majored in art and Kesha majored in business management before transferring to New York for fashion design.
So you knew you were going to go into art full time?
K: Yeah I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I don’t think I can do a 9-5 job.
S: Both of us have terrible attention spans but it helps because it helps us get all our work done on the spot. But we wouldn’t have been able to sit at a desk.
How it is working with your best friend?
K: To be honest we’ve never experienced a con but that’s not new. Ever since we’ve met each other we’ve never really had a fight or anything and we’ve done group projects together, done every single art class together, shared a table in APR…
S: I think all of the experiences we had in high school has helped us know how we work individually which has helped us now with our business, knowing how we work and communicate and that kind of stuff. I think it’s just a matter of being able to communicate freely. Knock on wood that we have jinxed it though!
How did you guys come up with the name?
K: When we were searching we came across a quote by Tupac it was “the roses that grow out of concrete are the strongest” or something like that…
S: Right. I think because at the time we were both struggling it just resonated with us. We just had a little bit of fun with the spelling of it so the K is for Kesha and the Roses is for me.
What are the best projects you’ve ever worked on?
K: I think a wall we painted, the one with the bamboo sticks. That was the first time we ever painted a wall and we struggled because it looks easy until you actually start and you’re trying not to get paint on someone’s expensive carpet.
S: We’ve done some campaigns as well like the Ol Pejeta one. We just recently launched one for KSPCA so some of our profits go to each of the organisations.
Is there anyone else you’re looking forward to working with?
K: Maybe David Sheldrick or Giraffe Centre would be great.
Tell us more about your denim jacket collections.
K: Our first one wasn’t a really themed collection. We were doing random designs along with custom designs then we realised there was no point in making our own designs when people were just going to try and change it to make it their own so now we just leave them blank.
S: Yeah and it’s a whole process where the clientele know what they want which is better than us telling them what to put then we adjust the design and tell them what will look good and what might not work. After the custom designs, we did a collection of the mud cloth jackets which is leather panelling on the denim jackets and then on top of that we paint the mud cloth designs. That was really interesting. Working in Kenya, in general, is very interesting because you really have to hustle to get your stuff out there.
K: Yeah and you just can’t have a pattern. You always have to change because people can get bored so quickly. It’s small here so it can be hard to find that unique thing, I think that’s why custom designs work for us really well.
So any other plans for your business?
S: We’re hoping to go international at some point. Before we were doing a few international orders but now we want to have an official thing somewhere.
What markets are you looking to get into?
K: I think we’re going to start with South Africa, We feel like it is a bit closer so we can actually physically go there and it’s easier to monitor your stuff there but ideally the UK or the US.
As creatives, what advice would you give your fellow creatives who want to start a business?
S: I think we’ve always just said that you have to do it.
K: I feel like here it’s always possible because you don’t have to be the best at what you do but if you market well then that’s great. Instagram is such a great platform and that’s what we use to sell our products. You have to do it for a while and just keep pushing like join every fair you can because here its who you know and word of mouth which is the biggest selling point.
S: It’s a weird balance of people who are still scared of online shopping and those who love it. There is definitely a leap of faith involved as well because we just did it.
K: If you’re studying whether it’s abroad or here fashion is always changing and because of Instagram and all these other platforms everything is a mix. We brought a lot of our ideas from where we were studying, so if you do that you won’t get bored, there’s always going to be something new.
S: I think trying not to do the same thing as somebody else is important as well. People are always looking for unique things. You see a lot of the same things coming up in Nairobi. It’s exhausting to the creatives who are working and trying to come up with new things and then it’s just replicated. It’s understandable because its part of the culture.
K: The good thing is there is no shortage of talent in Kenya. Here there are so many unique people and everyone is trying to do something different. It’s more about being unique than it is being in fashion.
S: Even if you have a smaller audience at least here you’re catering to people who really enjoy your unique designs rather than trying to please everyone with copied designs. It’s just a matter of finding your own crowd and going with the flow.
What do you do when you have an artistic block?
K: We’re working every day even on Sundays so we just power through even if we’re not feeling it.
S: At least it’s the two of us so if I’m not feeling it, Kesha is able to pick up the slack a little bit more and help me out. It works both ways.
K: Also I think in our process, the client does a lot of the creative work whether its a jacket or a logo a lot of the time we don’t have to think about it ourselves unless it’s one of our own products. The clients usually have a clear idea which we work with so that makes things easier. We also bounce a lot of ideas off our mums. It’s good to get an opinion from outside or from someone who isn’t buying your products because you don’t want to get stuck in a bubble.
Get your hands on some handpainted ConKrete Roses products off their Instagram page and look out for their Christmas products.
*The interview was recorded on 28/11/2019