Kenya's national rugby team hang up their tiny white shorts for a more elegant get up at the launch of a new men's line by Kiko Romeo, one of Africa's top fashion houses.
NAIROBI, KENYA (FEBRUARY 22, 2012) (REUTERS -People don't often associate rugby -- a brutal game that ends in bruises, tattered muddy shirts and hearty victory songs -- with high fashion.
So the launch of a men's clothing line inspired by Kenya's rugby team was an exciting prospect for fashion lovers and sports enthusiasts who gathered at the Kiko Romeo fashion outlet in Nairobi on Wednesday (February 22).
Kiko Romeo, one of Africa's top design houses showcased a men's collection of shirts, suits and trousers tailored for the everyday man but modelled by Kenyan rugby players.
Kiko head designer, Scottish-born Anne McCreath said plans for a men's line were already in the works but the idea to dress the players of one of the IRB sevens World Series most beloved teams came to her while showing at the Africa Fashion week in New York last year and the concept caught on at home.
"When I said that I was going to do that kind of show people imagine that I am making them walk down the catwalk with shorts. Now that wasn't the point. If you want to see them in shorts, go and see them play the game. What I wanted to do was show them in society, how are they in society, how can they represent us, how can they look sharp in nice clothes and of course its very easy because they have all got great bodies, so when you dress them as a designer they look good and they are very self confident, they carry themselves well," McCreath said.
Crafted in natural breathable fabrics the collection melds subtly glazed black poplin with gun-metal grey cotton, classic black brocade with loose-weaving -- a play on the dark and mysterious James Bond theme of the launch.
The pieces will be available first in Kiko Romeo outlets within Kenya then internationally.
Posing and smiling for the cameras is not new to the players, they are currently one of the 12 core teams of the IRB sevens with a guaranteed place in all eight events each season. They recently won titles in Wellington and Las Vegas.
But the players did admit that sporting the tailored elegant look was something they only did for special occasions, and this new line would give them a reason to dress up more often.
"No, we are not used to it, its all new to us. Other than having our dinners this is something new but we are loving it we would like to do it again and again," said Dennis Mwanja, one of the Kenya sevens team's top try scorers.
Team officials welcomed the move by Kiko Romeo, saying it was good not only for the team's image but also for the individual players' self image, something they hope can translate to better play on the pitch.
"Things like this help, you know getting them out of their shells, they come, you can talk to them away from rugby have a good laugh and all it can do in the end as I said, they are mingling here with the public, people are praising them, pats on the back, can only bring out good performances," Charles Cadovilis assistant coach.
McCreath said along with hopes for a successful line, she hoped the collection would raise the profile of Kenya's rugby teams and inspire added cooperate support.
Meanwhile, back in the fashion world, Kiko Romeo's men's line received mixed reviews.
"I was expecting more colour for the men's clothes, I noticed that there was mostly blacks and greys so I guess that's the only thing.. I had high expectations for, especially since she was launching the men's line, but all in all I think it was good and I thought the models were fantastic," said Wambui Thimba, a stylist for one of the country's mainstream newspapers.
"In Europe now everybody is looking for something a little different a bit special, I know when I go shopping I am looking for something that I wont find in a chain so if I find Kiko in Europe, I would buy it and I wear Kiko anyway," said Randolph Gray, a top hair stylist professional with Revlon.
"I would really love to see my boyfriend, let me start with my boyfriend wearing that on the street, I would really love it," said Macreane Achieng, a guest at the launch.
Kiko Romeo which means "Adam's Apple" in Swahili uses materials and labour from local communities and women's groups, which are retailed through the line's various outlets.
McCreath says she started the design house with an aim to create jobs and give richly talented makers of traditional ornaments and fabrics a place to sell their work and get an income.