Leah Karangi

Accessory Designer, Nairobi

 
 
 
 

A self-described “lover of all things African,” Leah handcrafts everything from heels and custom clothing to soap stone trinkets. In order to create her one-of-a-kind pieces, which have both modern and traditional elements, she traverses Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon and the Kenyan Coast to find authentic fabric. Aside from the local culture of Kenya’s many tribes, her other major inspiration is her mother, who taught her how to sew, knit, weave, carve and sculpt.

 

 
 
 
 
 

Your idea of happiness? 

Happiness to me means being loved. I don’t mean the kind of love you receive from your family, family is family and they have to love you. I mean the kind that is done by choice. Consciously, daily, a love that chooses to be with you because you are you. 

 

Your idea of misery? 

Misery for me would be to live without hope. 

 

If not yourself, who would you be?

If I wasn’t myself, who would I be? I don’t know that’s a very hard question. Maya Angelou, the poet and writer, because I love her way with words, or India.Arie, the singer, because she knows how to convey the most complicated feelings in the simplest of terms with her music. I greatly admire the ability to express yourself in such a way that there is no doubt in the person’s mind of what you’re talking about.

 

What is your present state of mind? 

My present state of mind is hopeful. I see every day as new opportunity for better.

 

Bedside table books? 

The book by my bedside is the bible. I don’t go a day without reading a verse. I have found that my faith has been the one constant in my life that has enabled me get through the tough times and as long as I have God on my side, there is nothing I cannot achieve. 

 

Do you collect anything? 

I’m a very sentimental person and I tend to collect things that have some sort of sentimental value; old letters, and rocks from a great vacation, the first birthday present I ever received which was a clock from my friend when I was probably 10 years old (still works just fine), dried flowers that I’ve had for more than a decade. My mum’s old sewing machine that I still use which she was given by her mum. These are things that I surround myself with. 

 

 
 
 

Favorite color? 

If I had to pick a color, I would say black. I don’t have too many black items and ironically, in my work, I rarely use black but that is the color I most resonate with. 

 

Favorite city? 

My favorite city is definitely Nairobi. Maybe because I don’t know any better but I love my home and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. 

 

What are your plans for this weekend? 

My weekend plans usually involve laundry and a mop. I’m a little obsessive compulsive and I go crazy if everything isn’t just right so my weekends are usually spent cleaning and making sure they are. 

 

Right or left-handed? 

I am right-handed and can cook almost everything perfectly, from a mundane salad to a heavenly chocolate mousse and everything in between. Thanks mum! 

 

What is your middle name?

My middle name is Wakathare. It’s quite a mouthful and a rare name, even here.  “Wa” means “of,” “ka” means “little” and “thare” is the Kikuyu name for strawberries. So I guess I am of little strawberries ☺.

 

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I am either a couch potato watching movies or I’m outside taking a walk and getting some fresh air.  

 

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? 

If I can’t sleep, I’ll most probably get my bible and read a few chapters till I fall asleep. 

 

Your heroes? 

My hero is anyone who takes some time out of his or her day to help someone else. I adore kindness, and I wish people would be more mindful of others and take care of each other more. 

 

Favorite song? 

I love music in general and have numerous favorites. On some days I’m a rocker, other days all I want is some mellow R&B and on others I connect most with some African tunes, or soul, or house…but if I had to pick one I would have to say “Ready for Love” by India.Arie. 

 
 
 
 
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