Why Lupita will not be wearing made-in-Kenya any time soon

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“There’s something about Lupita – and the world’s biggest fashion houses know it.” So begins an article posted on The Telegraph website.

Six months on Lupita Fever shows no signs of fading. She’s made front pages locally and internationally.

Like most, I’m fascinated by her rise.

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She exhibits no gawkiness or awkward red carpet phases that all female celebrities go through.

Instead, Lupita emerges from the frothy fashion sea in poised adulthood and conquers it at her first try.

She has topped every single Best Dressed List imaginable.

Daily Mail reports the gown that the actress wore to the Golden Globe Awards is selling for Sh602,000 ($7,000).

She’s already won herself a campaign with MiuMiu and landed two covers this month alone with independent fashion magazines.

In my November 2013 Drum interview with her, Lupita talked red carpet fashion saying “I have a stylist for that who is very helpful.”

That is Micaela Erlanger, who was worked with GQ, Glamour and Jamie Foxx.

Her pairing with Lupita is perfect as her idea of a woman with style is “someone who carries themselves with grace and ease.”

Lupita’s razor-cut hair was by Larry Sims, former choreographer to Missy Elliot now turned hair stylist to Queen Latifah, the Beckhams, Gabrielle Union, Mary J. Blige and iconic black magazines Ebony and Essence.

Lupita Fever says several things.

That fashion is not superficial, the red carpet remains the single biggest trampoline for any female star, stylists are recognised geniuses and now suffer as much, if not more, criticism than the stars they dress and fashion designers can really make the earth move.

Yet the Kenyan conversation has been less visionary.

We ask, instead, why wear a red dress on the red carpet, who does that? Turns out lots of heavy hitters who can bend and break rules.

Red carpets attract traditionally seductive silhouettes.

Lupita rubbished that.

It isn’t a fishtail, poofy A-line, slinky, slitted, low cut, butt-baring or cliché.

It looks like nothing most celebrities wear on the red carpet and is singular in and of itself.

It sets her so far apart from her peers they will need the Oscars to play catch up.

In fact, Lupita raises her own bar so high the question now becomes can she top herself come Oscars?

But our most critical question is why wasn’t she wearing a Kenyan designer?

Let’s be honest. If Gucci and Prada were fighting to dress you and you picked Ralph Lauren, should the world be upset?

Secondly, stylists source for stars. An entire industry is built around the red carpet.

Here’s a trajectory of the rise of a star. An ingénue starts to attract attention for a certain role.

It draws a team of people to her, that is, if she were not already being groomed behind the scenes for just this moment.

It can, in fact, create the impression of being an overnight success.

Ingénues have fumbled sometimes for years till one day they hit that sweet spot.

The more buzz your role generates, the more designers want a piece of you.

The bigger you are and become, the bigger the names clamouring to dress you, the more choices you have.

The bigger the event, the greater the hunger. As a starlet evolves into a star, they have great input in their own look.

If they are being groomed, their style team works very closely with them.

One appearance can bring with it thousand scripts and endorsements.

The stakes are incredibly high, controlled and regimented.

No one takes chances. It’s considered unforgivable to flounder on the red carpet.

Stars have access to the best of everything from hair, makeup, stylists, publicists, stores.

Let’s break it down.

How many Kenyan designers have attempted to dress local celebrities for award shows in South Africa and Nigeria?

Who, outside of your immediate friends, family and clientele know of your existence?

Can you be found online? Say Micaela picked your dress for Lupita, can Lupita do fittings?

Should Lupita educate her team and recommend you, where would they begin to look for you?

What if Lupita wore your red dress and suddenly Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock or Beyonce told their people they wanted one just like that, how fast would you deliver it?

Have you been on any of the key fashion weeks – New York, London, Milan or Paris?

Because Lupita’s red carpet outfits are unfailingly fashion forward and fresh off the runway.

You now begin to see the gigantic leap in marketing designers must make to be on anyone’s radar.

Fashion in Hollywood is practically a front line ministry and access is so limited it is hallowed.

That’s why it’s treated like a religion.

And, to the Kenyans who still believe she should have worn a dress designed by a Kenyan, how many of you have outfits made by local designers?

The odds are clearly not in favour of local designers, because presence, visibility and connections count as does research and relevance.

Jason Wu, before Michelle Obama blew him into the stratosphere, had to make a bid for the lady’s hand by being in possession of an outfit worthy of a First Lady ready and in time for the inauguration.

Until recently, Kenyans never imagined the red carpet was a matter of national importance.

It is now. Unfortunately, our fashion industry is grossly unprepared for opportunities.

In the words of www.fashion.telegraph.co.uk, “She (Lupita) may not have won an award last night but she won the red carpet and a place on every ‘Best Golden Globe dresses’ round-up for years to come.”-nation.co.ke

Actor Forest Whitaker (L) and Kenya's Lupita Nyong'o attend the 19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at Barker Hangar on January 16, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. Lupita’s razor-cut hair was by Larry Sims, former choreographer to Missy Elliot now turned hair stylist to Queen Latifah, the Beckhams, Gabrielle Union, Mary J. Blige and iconic black magazines Ebony and Essence. Photo/Christopher Polk/Getty Images/AFP

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