Running. Kenyans do it well. Really well actually. Kenyan athletes are famous world over. As they stand at the starting line of a race, whether be it the New York Marathon, Olympic games or Commonwealth games, the world looks on, sitting at the edge of their seats weighing up the chances of their athletes in comparison to ours. One thing they may not be so privy to, however, are the words “Enda! Enda! Enda!” that come bursting out of every Kenyan’s mouth as we see our athletes belting it round the bend and across the finish line. There is one brand though, that is taking this phrase to the world. Enda, the footwear and clothing brand that is built around Kenya’s infamous running culture.
Founded in 2016, and born from a crowdfunding campaign, Enda was brought about as a means of sharing Kenya’s running culture with the world, but as the founders soon found out, running shoes go far beyond what their name entails. They not only serve as a fashion statement but also as a way of bringing to light different social issues and sharing culture. All the shoes have Kenya’s national motto “Harambee” inscribed on their soles, and looking at the inaugural ‘Iten’ model, not only is it named after the place where many of our incredible athletes' train, it too, is representative of the Kenyan Flag, coming in our national colours of Red, Green and Black.
From dreams of becoming a lawyer to the ignition of a dream to change the negative narrative around Africa, Navalayo Osembo-Ombati was spurred to begin her journey towards the inception of Enda. “I knew that Kenyans are very good at sports, especially athletics, and wanted to create a social enterprise that would capitalize on this success to create something big that would bring the benefits of the running shoe industry back to the home of running champions''. Enda has grown rapidly since then. Speaking to Navalayo about the challenges fashion businesses face in Kenya and around Africa in general, she notes “I see business as a series of small breakthroughs rather than this one big magical moment.” Well, these small breakthroughs look like magical moments in themselves for Enda. Navalayo recalls her “most memorable one was when Luptia Nyong’o wore our shoes to the Afropunk Festival in New York in 2017. And later in 2019, she and Winston Duke, while on the Complex Sneaker show, talked about our shoes and the importance of having a running shoe coming out of Africa”. Navalayo considers this an achievement and when reflecting on that moment she says: “I still get goosebumps when I think of both events and I am forever grateful for her support in highlighting our brand”.
Enda is the first manufacturer of professional running shoes in Africa and hopes to one day become the top running shoe brand in the world. What does this mean? Well not only would it be a Kenyan brand in one of the most prominent positions globally, but it would also mean that Enda would be able to grow and provide jobs for thousands directly but also indirectly through the growth of its supply chain.
It is clear that there is room on the global stage for this Kenyan brand, will it go the distance? we hope so, it's in their DNA.
Read more about Enda Running on their website - ke.endasportswear.com
Navalayo is part of the Creative DNA Programme, a British Council programme supported by the Foreign Commonwealth Office designed to support fashion businesses in Kenya, develop skills, knowledge and networks in Kenya and the UK. The programme is focused on promoting alternative and innovative approaches to the global fashion system with the ambition of demonstrating that the fashion sector in Kenya is a professional choice for young people and a valuable contributor to the creative economy.
words by Iona McCreath