Artist who is an outcast to conservatives

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 00:00 |
Vivi Karia. PD/Photo/Jackson Onyango

Jackson Onyango @Onyango_Jack

Vivi Karia is borderline. She has a degree in journalism from University of Nairobi, but has never practiced it.

Her affinity lies in things art and creativity that has all her undivided attention.

From carpentry art, stage design to fashion— she is just devoted to eclectic arts.

Vivi, 27, spends time in her home studio immersed in different art forms. Her fashion journey began in 2015.

She started making clothes by deconstructing them and pairing them in their most unconventional nature. 

“I began deconstructing my own clothes at home. The interest grew over time and I tried to start my clothing brand.

However, that proved challenging because with deconstruction, you can never mass produce.

The technique is complex and so one garment could take even a month to get done,” says the artist based in Kahawa Sukari, Nairobi.

She was always a pink elephant in the room with her awkward taste, but this is what made her special.

With a number of limited collection series of fashion items ranging from series such as Pussy Wanker, 10 Women, First Time, Streetocracy, Vivi transcended the fashion culture with odd abstract idealism making her an outcast to conservatives.

The collections came with pieces such as tees, caps, pins, stickers, athleisure gear such as sports bras and briefs. She was literally on a roll.  

With the help of her friends such as Alexis Nerea and Randy Gowon who wore her clothes and modelled in them, she gaining traction, especially on social media. Today, Gowon walk runways for highend brands in Milan streets.

Not your everyday wear

These pieces were limited, hence they were easy to sell through social media as well as the help of physical retail stores such as Nairobi Apparel District.

The fabrics, stitching, and detailing, too undeniable not to get off the shelf. Her fashion nucleused around layering, deconstruction, and individualism.

Her physique is a petite body and curvaceous figure allowing her to manipulate fashion in a way not many can even dare think of.

Who trusts a bartender that doesn’t drink anyway? The layering queen stretches the boundaries of fashion with ideas of fitting pyjamas with denims, linking objects, patch works, fishnets, sewed zippers in uncommon areas, and more. 

There is no argument that her aesthetic is punk and she runs and serves it nonchalantly. Her colour schemes know no parameters.

She can easily dabble in vibrant and bass colours separately if she wants to, or mix and match them, and still maintain a sharp individuality.

Critiques have also shamed her for her not so everyday wear, or slut-leaning wear, etcetera.

“My style has actually become simpler over time because I have moved away from clothing.

But if you are confident and know what works for you and your body type, you will always be stylish,” says Vivi.

As she outgrew fashion, her personal life became more religious and drawn into philosophy, fine art, and photography. This she says challenge her way of thinking.

“I think I am influenced or interested in an array of things at different times in my life. I like to read a lot; anything philosophical or religious is always interesting to me.

I am currently interested in simple math concepts too. But I like music a lot. I am currently influenced by the church, God, artists such as Arnheim, Platos, Rei Kawakubo,” she reveals.

A gap year made Vivi rediscover herself and challenge her self-knowledge making her step out of the box and tapping into more forms of art.

“In 2018, I was a little frustrated with how my creative process was going. I took a break for a year and reassessed my vision, strengths and weaknesses.

So during that time, I decided to take up photography as a hobby. I have always had an eye for unusual ideas.

So I teamed up with my friend who is a photographer, I made a mood-board for my first editorial called Looking Glass.

I creative directed the project, I liked how it flowed and the outcome was amazing,” she narrates.

This was the beginning of a chapter in her life she probably didn’t foresee, but would become a portal to her finding herself deeper creatively.

“From then on, I never looked back. I continued to do more editorials. My curiosity grew and I started to incorporate other mediums in form of props into the projects.

It was interesting to me how the props would easily change the editorial in terms of aesthetics,” Vivi shares.

Working with different photographers, sparking new ideas, challenging herself, and going through day-to-day life experiences, she would now start to peak her interest into more artistic ventures.

“I started to research on set design and sometimes, we would even shoot a space without the need to use a model to enhance the idea.

The curated space naturally spoke volumes by itself. With that, set design became a medium of expression as well.

I started to do exhibitions around my set design ideas and it slowly became a part of my vision,” she says.

Vivi’s hunger would start to broaden as she faded from fashion and different aspects of her life delving into sculpture making, set-design, furniture, and a creator of sorts. A conceptual artist was being conceived sub-consciously.

“Being an artist who highly depends on my spirituality to create, I have always felt I am called to design, just the way God is a designer,” she says.

More on Lifestyle