From Kibra to the world
By Alfayo Onyango
Days seem longer when you are at the bottom of the totem pole, as your faith gets tested to the point of wondering if God is there. When you are at what seems to be the bottomless pits’ bottom, you question the most sensitive things such as your sanity and your purpose, but as 24-year-old David Avido Owino testifies, the key is to never give up.
“I would barely have a meal on some days. Some KDF (an inner city-style pastry) and Sh50 packet of milk would take me through the day. Some days were longer than others, nights shorter, and I wouldn’t desire to wake up, but I never gave up and somehow I knew God had a plan for me,” Avido explains to People Plus.
In a country where unemployment is as deadly as cancer, Avido is no stranger to it. From construction, he would try beat the idle monster by engaging in social activities most notably dancing with his high school dance crew, Chopperz, through which they would coin some revenue by appearing in music videos, ghetto dance competitions, and any opportunity they could score. Avido would tailor their amateur costumes, something that would help young lad evade the prevalent noir lifestyle of Kibra.
Fashion came as an ‘Aha!’ moment for the young turk, as it wasn’t something he had actually contemplated on doing as a teenager. He faced one too many challenges including lack of primary school fees as his mother struggled with low income, forcing him to utilise his resources such as his football prowess to fund his primary school certification.
“My mum is my rock. She has always supported me, and even when we were down and out, she always pushed me forward. Through every step I feel like I’m accomplishing both our dreams. “She didn’t have a formal job, and because of this I had to drop out in Form One. This gave me time to discover myself and was one of my most important time. I would go deep into the slums just passing time through writing poems and stuff like that. Eventually, I joined mjengo to try make ends meet, then dancing, and later that propelled me into my fashion journey,” Avido reveals.
The designer had to attend adult education after failing to complete high school the usual way. “I got the opportunity to pursue adult education (gumbaru) through hard work in the hood, that took me past Form Four, and then Maisha Foundation organisation gave me the chance to pursue a certificate in fashion in 2016,” he says.
Many people associate his brand, LooksLikeAvido, with the shiny glitz and eccentric hues. From blazers, bomber jackets, pants, body suits, hats, hoods, his fine prints have managed to light up any room from the effortless authenticity they flaunt.
His trademark African Kanga Prints has gained him much traction from upper echelon politicians such as late Kibra MP Ken Okoth, and a multitude of celebrities from both locally and abroad.
“The late honourable Ken Okoth was one of my biggest supporters and inspirations. He got me my first sewing machine. I am forever indebted to him,” Avido says. When he was still new to the industry, Okoth would still wear his jackets and motivate him.
The infamous Kibra is Avido’s main source of inspiration and fuels him to be a positive thinker and to work even harder.
“I’ve lived in the slum all my life. I have been there through all the highs and lows, for example I saw people being victimised during the Post Election Violence. I have been there everyday enjoying meeting with my counterparts to follow our dreams such as dancing, music, fashion. I have seen success stories such as musician Octopizzo change his life for the better, and those around him. I love the ghetto,” Avido shares.
His work in fashion gained fame back in 2017 after the internet could not ignore the colourful African designs being shared all over the net, as well as on the grounds where they always strived to make an impression through their wardrobe decisions.
Remembering how he would get from place to place on his famous bodaboda bicycle covering long distances, then progressing to cabs to deliver his designs, it would not be long before world renowned stars such as Burning Spear, Jah Cure, Konshens, Vanessa Mdee, Cecile and Chronixx noticed the LooksLikeAvido’s genius and dreamt of meeting the young lad.
“Meeting my idols humbles me and reminds me that they are also just human like you and I. If you put your mind to anything, good or bad, you will most likely attract the same. It gives me a special feeling that my work is appreciated, and I strive to keep getting better just as they do in their arts as well,” Avido expresses.
The reggae lover was among Safaricom’s youth mentorship programme, BLAZE 2018 motivational speakers alongside entrepreneurs such as actress Catherine Karanja and social media entrepreneur Joy Kendi.