If you attended or saw images from Kisumu Fashion Week held in September 2016, you must have been impressed by the very unique crochet designs worn by the models on the catwalk. The creative genius behind these wonderful designs is 24-year-old crochet expert extraordinaire, Joan Aoko.
Here’s an exclusive interview with Joan.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative practice.
I’m Joan Aoko, an International Relations and Diplomacy graduate from Maseno University. I’m 24 years old, God fearing, an introvert and lover of art and handmade stuff. I’m a crochet and knitwear designer, my brand is called Joheartyarns ( which simply means Joan loves yarns). I design handmade bikinis, festival dresses, ponchos, sunhats, sweaters, scarfs, bags, baby stuff and crochet accessories.
Who inspired you to begin crocheting?
Ever since I was young, I had a thing for art , especially handmade products. Products made by hand are made out of love and dedication. My mother was a crocheter, a good one. At the ag of 10, I had already learnt the basics from her. However, I didn’t really put it into practice till my 4th year of study in campus when the interest and urge resurfaced. I would crochet to pass time, more of a hobby. It is my friends who spotted my talent and encouraged me to turn it into a business and the rest, as they say, is history. You know life after campus is sometimes tricky, there’s no guarantee of getting a job, so I saw it fit to turn my hobby into a business. Even if everything won’t go my way now, I still have the passion that drives me. Furthermore I want to be my own boss, a mentor and create job opportunities to other youths out here.
Did you do home science while in primary, high school or university?
Interesting enough I disliked home science and opted for business study while in form 2. Little did I know home science is where my passion is. I don’t regret it though.
Who is your role model?
My late grandmother. I admired her, she was a prayerful woman of God, woman of virtue and her advice’s has kept me going on in life. I’m yet to identify another role model, sounds weird but that’s just me. However, my family and clients are my biggest supporters. I thank God for them.
How many fashion events have you showcased your work? Which is your most memorable event and why?
I have showcased once at The 2016 Kisumu Fashion Week. You know what they always say about your first, you never forget it, 2016 Kisumu Fashion Week remains my most memorable. I had mixed feelings whether people would appreciate my work, and guess what? they did! The cheers and applause as models showcased my designs was just overwhelming. It also gave me the much needed exposure coz I started getting calls from all over inquiring about my designs. I’m still looking forward for more platforms to showcase my work.
What’s your opinion on brand designers who incorporate crochet into their runway work?
I consider them creative and artistic. Warms my heart knowing that there are designers who still appreciate handmade clothing. Nowadays, most designers use machine to produce their designs.
Which of the crochet products do you enjoy making?
That must be bikinis, coz I’m so fast at making them and feels exciting when doing so. I love making bags as well.
Model Mary Ndunda in a blue bikini designed by Joheartyarns
What type of material do you like to crochet with other than yarn?
I just use yarn. There are different types of yarn. I use cotton, acrylic or wool depending on project I’m working on coz they differ in texture, size and many other attributes.
How is the market in kisumu for crochet products?
Market in Kisumu is low but picking up gradually. Majority of my clients are from Nairobi. Most people still believe crocheting is all about “kushona vitambaa” but those who appreciate handmade buy my products.
What are your 2017 crochet goals? Did you meet your 2016 goals and Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have met like 80% of my 2016 goals. In 2017, my main goal is to open a shop where my clients can walk in and find all my products. God willing, in 5 years, I will own a big one stop shop fully stocked with my products, I’ll have made headway in the international market, created jobs for many youths.
Where can we see more of your work?