Vintara Collections is a brand tackling the cultural threats posed by the increasing dominance of Western culture in countries such as Kenya. Specialising in bags and accessories, Ian Mati, the founder of the brand highlights the joy and anticipation many Africans experiences when going to visit their grandparents and other family members upcountry, or as you’d say in Kenya, ‘Shaggz’. He iterates “by visiting our Shaggz we reconnect with our inherent cultural identity. It gives us meaning.” But continues to detail that “Future generations might not end up enjoying the privileges of our cultural heritage due to the encroachment of Western culture”. For this very reason, he decided to create a brand that would tackle this problem by creating products that share the “African culture, spirit and love with the rest of the world”. As much understanding of one’s culture and cultural practices are derived from these visits and interactions with older generations, Vintara Collections have set out to conserve these cultures through the use of textile.
Vintara’s use of African style fabrics is a way of ensuring that people are able to display their cultures in a more public manner, wearing your heart on your sleeve in a certain sense. Although not everyone will understand, for those who do, they foster a sense of community amongst the people who carry their bags. It shows a sense of solidarity and appreciation for one’s heritage and as Ian says “we may not all understand exactly what used to go on in the olden days, but this is just a piece that represents who we are”. Going beyond Kenya, Vintara will be highlighting the wider cultural traditions from around Africa through textile. Other than using different textiles on their bags, they will also have a section on their website dedicated to giving more insight into different traditional textiles and their cultural meanings.
Having studied economics at the University of Nairobi, Ian has been able to gain a holistic understanding of the business process. Merged with his creativity, he has been able to build a business with a solid growth plan, looking at it from a long-term perspective and being able to understand the prospects of growth right from the onset. This has allowed him to be creative but ensure that he thinks through everything from a business perspective. One way in which he does this is ensuring the sustained functionality of Vintara pieces. The lines are crafted around 5 different segments, all targeted towards different aspects of everyday life. Vintara Mama looks at the mother, providing diaper bags, shopping bags and other items that serve the specific yet ever-versatile needs of a mother in today’s world. Vintara Kids serves the needs of kids, with school bags, sports bags, and of course lunch bags amongst much more. Vintara Yout is targeted towards the 15-25-year-old segment, who want to be unique and stand-out but still have the need of being able to carry books around. Vintara Mtaalamu looks towards the professional, with laptop bags and other items that need to be professional but can still have a burst of expression. Finally, there is Vintara Msafiri, which serves the needs of the modern traveller.
Vintara Collections 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.