Emo Rugene On #Afroshoes And The Birth Of Ngepa.ke

He is perhaps most recognizable as an actor on the groundbreaking production Veve or as the founder of Afro Shoes – but he is definitely a man with talents that stretch far beyond even the pinnacles of design that he’s managed to carve his way through over the past few years.

I first met Emo Rugene around four years ago while putting together a month long careers platform; an opportunity for young people to learn from some of the most successful in various fields. Emo was confident, carried himself with class and surprised me with a pretty hearty sense of humour. And he spoke about what he did with an engaging kin of ferocity. Like any true artist.

He’s been in the news for a while for AfroSlippers – shoes so exquisitely manufactured, that tell our story – as Kenyans and Africans in a market that is so crowded. How is life treating him in 2017?

“I think that over time the brand has grown to show that it was not just started as a pass time but as a proper force to reckon with in footwear. My inspiration from the beginning was always the African people and the different cultures that we entail.. So far it has gone well for us because the people as well resonate with our story and what we stand for,” he says.

2017 started with a bang for himself and the rest of the team – with the launch of the sneaker at the Sandstorm store at Sarit Center – and of course, a huge community of people came through to show their support. You can say what you will about us, but we show love to our own. Especially someone who has worked so hard to achieve what he has.

The production cycle, he tells me, is pretty intense. Shoes are manufactured on a daily basis, although this will inevitably go up or down based on demand at that particular time. He says the focus at present is to continuously focus on the quality of the classic Afroshoes.

And there is something new to look forward to.

A new product under the name Ngepa.ke: “It came along as a result of two brands coming together. [I was talking to] my friend Mohammed from Suave bags and we thought that caps are good accessories to bags and shoes and that’s how it came to life…”

Inspiration can take place over the course of a few seconds, but the design and creative experience can be challenging: “I find that the hardest part is quality in production and finding the right help – and in some cases, the machinery not being available. I find being in fashion in Kenya one has to have a tough skin to stay put and consistency is always key. The ones that have weathered the storm are now reaping the rewards…”

And this is why the team is so important and central to his life: “At Afroshoes we are a small team and that means that I need to be there 100 percent of the time when we are developing a product at the initial phase. I double up as the creative director because I have to develop an idea and then implement it to the end. Once it picks up I am not always needed at every point….”

And Emo has a lot more that he’s excited about, but he’s not letting any cats out of any bags any time soon.

So for now it’s focusing on the present and what’s out there and ensuring a perfect product is delivered every time.

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I love music and food! Radio presenter and lifestyle editor at Homeboyz Radio. Esoteric. Raw Like Sushi