The Greatest Show on Earth: A Conversation with Head of Design, Gladys Macharia

Head of Design, Gladys Macharia

headed out to the Maasai Mara for a long-awaited escape from the city. Tagging along with her is our new Kuba Cloth Afridrille & Beach Bag that she wore while on Safari rediscovering the greatest show on earth. 

"Lockdown has left people daydreaming of travel, our new normal! It has been 5 months since I can remember being at an airport or able to leave Nairobi. 

On the 7th of August Kenya opened up back up & allowed tourism throughout the country. Two weeks later, I was on the road at 5 AM making my way towards the Maasai Mara. It's been months of thinking about where I wanted to go and why. The greatest show in the world, better known as the Great Migration, seemed like the perfect break from the city. An opportunity to remember how beautiful mother nature is, being still in nature, taking in the sun and fresh air. 

Tourism in Kenya is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. The tourism sector has been one of the worst-hit due to COVID. However, from every negative comes a positive. For the first time in decades, Kenyans have been able to enjoy resident rates during peak season and the chance of local tourism to be revived. We saw Kenya at the forefront of having to shift from a consumptive frame of mind which has led us to the gradual degradation of the environment, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

The great migration is the greatest show in the world, 1.5 million wildebeest journey across the plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya all the way south into Tanzania, through the Serengeti to the edge of the Ngorongoro crater, before circling up and around in a clockwise direction. The Great Migration showcases thousands of animals taken by predators, and thousands more are born, replenishing the numbers and sustaining the circle of life. 

Lack of movement has given new light into my life. Having a busier than normal schedule at Ubuntu, these past few months have seen us work on several rollouts for the design calendar and amongst the introduction of new bag collection and many more new bracelets patterns & colorways. I am thrilled for the launch of the Kuba Cloth Afridrille as it is a pivotal moment for the Ubuntu Life brand creating & establishing print that is uniquely identifiable to Ubuntu. We hope you love it as much as we do! 

I am constantly challenged by my team and watching the world shift. To create a conscious experience one has to have the consumer at heart. I am a big listener and this has been one of my guiding principles in design is to listen. Listening was the root of how the Kuba Cloth print evolved and now taking to the next step with our Afridrille. 

We are an African based brand designed by a Kenyan. I naturally gravitate towards drawing my inspiration from Africa to represent our roots and carry forward a print that is globally loved by so many. The Kuba Cloth print is a celebration of an African textile that is widely collected, each piece very unique from the other. I have spent the last five months reestablishing a print that we can celebrate on our shoes and be distinctly African through every meaningful step we take.

I am currently working on growing an archive of prints inspired by Africa that are uniquely identifiable to Ubuntu. We must celebrate beautiful historical prints across different African countries. I cannot wait to share them throughout our 2021 product line. 

My favorite and most challenging experience in working to create a print-ready for shoes was working with the unique Kuba Cloth print which is popularly known for its unique random geometric patterns in juxtaposition This was a real challenge to create a print that would be suitable for a shoe. As you have a smaller surface area, differing sizes in shoes, and left and right foot creating a mirror effect to ensure that each pair despite being different looked like they belonged to each other. 

Did you know that the Kuba print took about two months to get to a perfect print for the shoe? Each Pantone color represented on the Kuba Cloth print is hand-mixed using ink pigments that are mixed by two individuals for a week to make sure each shoe has the perfect hue represented on the print. 

The great part of being the Head of Design is I get to take all of our new products through a serious wearability test. I love the freshness of the print and I have loved every single day of taking my shoes out around the city and especially on my escape out of the city to Safari in the Maasai Mara - the print really does make you feel special!


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