Meet the UoN Students Designing Bata’s Next Stylish Shoe

Two University of Nairobi students are among ten finalists in this year’s Bata Young Designers Challenge.

Anita Wambuia 3rd Year Art and Design student majoring in Interior Design, and Cyprian Kiswili who’s doing his Masters in the same, are among the young designers who will compete in the Czech Republic at Bata Fashion Weekend 2019, held at Prague’s historic Zofin Palace from 12th to the 14th of April.

The designers were challenged to create a design-proposal sneaker, around the theme, ‘The Evolution of Style’. Each country’s winning shoes will be put into limited production and sold at selected Bata stores globally.

Anita was inspired by nature and her shoe name the Savandah is inspired by Swahili culture.

The inspiration for these shoes came from a walk in the savanna, specifically from the Swahili culture from the Kenyan coast. Swahili are known for spicy foods, curvy architectural designs, and detailed patterns on their jewellery, instruments, clothes, weapons and furniture. She took these elements and incorporated them into the type of sandal she wore as a toddler, mixing the sandal with elements of a traditional derby shoe.

Cyprian Kiswili who is majoring in Illustration at the University of Nairobi is competing with a design he calls ‘Blossom’.

The vast, bushy savannah on the edge of the town Konzo was the inspiration for Blossom, specifically the blossoming flowers, the chirping birds, and the lively people and insects. The shoe is also heavily inspired by illustrations and cartoons. This shoe creates a striking balance between fun and seriousness, taking symbols and icons and expressing them in the form of fashion.

On a recent trip to the Bata Factory in Limuru to celebrate the companies 80th anniversary in Kenya and 125 years globally, we got a chance to see what happens behind the scenes. Anita and Cyprian and the other young designers also got to produce their designs at Bata factories in the Czech Republic and Kenya, under the watchful eye of dedicated and experienced shoemakers.

While at Bata, we met Esther Kute the Product Development Manager, who is the youngest senior manager and the first woman to have the position. “When I took this office I felt it was important to start mentoring young designers in Kenya. We worked with the Technical University of Kenya and UoN for the BATA Design Apprentice. The winner of that competition was Cynthia Lela. The other finalist Ian is also doing well and has ventured into other areas of design. I am happy that this year’s finalists have made it to the Bata Young Designers Challenge in Prague.”

You a fashionista? Or simply a Bata shoe fan? You can attend live viewing of the event in Prague at the Junction Mall this Saturday. There will also be a limited edition sneaker on sale for those who love the brand and want a one of a kind design to add to their collection.

The KV team will be at the Junction this weekend to see which shoe wins the competition and to cheer on both Anita and Cyprian.

LL is a writer based in Nairobi who previously loved attending and writing about the pop culture scene, Nairobae events, and cool Kenyans doing cool things. Especially Kenyan women. Currently, she's relearning and exploring beauty and fashion stories in the country.