Ever since I read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in high school, my interest in feminism, especially strong, powerful women peaked. I then binge-watched Sophia Amoruso’s Netflix adaptation of her best-selling book, Girlboss (which I also read), and also read How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh and Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling to enrich myself.
Inspired by the positivity radiating from these resilient women, I set out to find my own local role models. With the current global convo about women and feminism (#girllove), I decided it is time to take the plunge and do something that I’ve always talked about, but never attempted till now.
Welcome to Women Who Inspire! This is a series where I’ll highlight women who inspire me, especially here in Kenya.
For my first post in this series, meet Kesha Gorajia and Suhun Shin from Conkrete Roses.
On one of my many Instagram scrolling sessions, I came across Kesha Gorajia and found her feed interesting. Over the years, I virtually saw her grow her personal brand, ParKesha (a line of hand-painted accessories and household items). Then came along Conkrete Roses, a new venture that Kesha started with her best friend, Suhun.
Jaini’s TIP: Want a cool Conkrete Roses jacket? Read to the end to see how to score one.
We recently met up at one of my favorite coffee shops (Spring Valley Artisan Coffee – you know how much I love it #zanzibarilatte) and talked all things Conkrete Roses.
Having met in Grade Eight in high school, Kesha and Suhun soon became inseparable. They often joked about creating their own brand when they grew up. But after high school, they both went in their own directions. Kesha went off to New York City to study Fashion Business Management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, while Suhun went off to the American University of Rome to study Fine Arts in Italy. Upon graduating, they both returned home to start their own businesses. Kesha started working on her own ParKesha brand – a line of hand-painted accessories and household items, and Suhun started taking art commissions which she also posts on her Instagram.Realizing they were in the same city at the same time again while reminiscing about old times, they jumped onto the idea of creating their own brand of hand-painted items: Conkrete Roses. The pair work hard on their unique brand that sells a variety of hand-painted items including leather and denim jackets, bags, and various clothing for men, women, and children. They also create customized items for their clients, when requested.Inspired by all the startup brands in Kenya, Kesha says, “There are so many brilliant and creative minds in this country who have not only built up themselves but also the locals from who they source both materials and labor from.”
“In terms of our designs, we are inspired by everyday trends and international fashion styles,” Suhun adds. Of course, a lot of their work is based on “helping people embrace their personal style, with the help of art”, as Kesha puts it.Both Kesha and Suhun also claim to be creatively inspired by various people in their life. Suhun relies on a great support system of hard-working people who guide her through making decisions and she finds inspiration from fellow artists such as Boris (@boboaka) from Rome. Kesha, on the other hand, seeks fashion and artistic inspiration from her mom, Trupti Gorajia, who she says has “a unique fashion sense that is both trendy and classy”. Every time Kesha starts a new project, her creative process starts with the question: What would Trupti do? Kesha also finds encouragement and support from Urvi Shah, the founder and designer of the Poetic Trends jewellery brand. I can attest that Poetic Trends has some fabulous statement jewellery that I’m always admiring for its excellent craftsmanship.Curious about their production process, I asked this dynamic duo how they go about making their products from start to finish. Suhun explains, “Depending on the product, we generally pick out a raw material and once the product (i.e. jacket, bag or clothing item) is ready to be painted on, we chalk on a design and then paint the design. Through the entire process, both Kesha and I make sure we have individually worked on the product so that each piece has a touch of both of us.”A day in their life can be different every day as Kesha says, “It’s the dream!”. There is no set plan, so sometimes they have meetings with suppliers, “amazing bloggers” (their words, not mine haha) and influencers, or photograph their products for social media. Other times, they work on their painting process and brainstorm new ideas.
When I asked about their favorite product, as I tried to decide what I wanted to have painted on my jacket, Kesha and Suhun told both me that they really love their ‘Bite me’ jacket, which also seems to be a fan favorite. They have even tried to create new versions of that particular design because it is so popular.I got this gorgeous denim jacket with an elephant and donuts (with extra sprinkles, of course) and a “J” on the sleeve! Isn’t it stunning?A smaller brand, both Kesha and Suhun told me that they want Conkrete Roses to be “a go-to brand for personalized gifts.” Once they have their studio (which is currently in the process), they hope to be a “platform for upcoming artists to show and display their work through gallery exhibitions and various events”. They also hope to introduce art classes and various craft-related events for all ages in the near future. I sure am looking forward to those art classes, where I can relax in one of my natural habitats (a paint studio) and hang with my friends.Speaking of relaxing, the girls told me that when they’re not working, they love to eat sushi at Tokyo Restaurant, bake up a mess in the kitchen or binge-watch some TV. Bring on the unlimited sushi and Netflix for me!
As promised, my dear donuts, if you mention JAINI’S CONKRETE ROSE upon ordering, you can enjoy a 15% discount on your next jacket from Conkrete Roses. The offer is valid until 16th February 2018.
Photos by Conkrete Roses