The bright, vibrant colours pull you in but it is the details in Rui Stalph’s wonderful designs that keep you captivated. A self-described digital nomad, Rui is the surface designer behind the brand Kangarui. The name is a mash-up of Kenya’s most popular textile kanga and her first name.
Rui spent her early years in Nakuru, where her father worked as a civil engineer in Lake Nakuru National Park. From her family home she had an amazing view of the lake filled with beautiful pink flamingos. “This is probably where my love of nature started,” Rui tells me with a laugh.
After completing her secondary school education in Nairobi, Rui studied graphic design at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. She now works as a freelance web designer mostly based in Tokyo. But what would morph into Kangarui started a few years ago when Rui was living in Germany and missing Kenya, which she still considers home. She started to experiment and create what she calls ‘quirky animal art’ by digitally combining and layering her paintings with photographs.
When she came across American websites—such as Society6—that could produce her work on her behalf, she started to upload designs onto these websites. But in the last year Rui decided that she wanted to produce her own designs. This would be more time-consuming and require more investment, but it would allow her more control. She can now choose the fabric her designs are printed on.
Intent on launching her brand in Kenya, Rui researched digital printing in December of last year. She found that it wasn’t possible to achieve the quality she desired in Kenya so she decided to return to Tokyo and see if she could produce there. She booked a return flight to Nairobi, with an April return date, to create a self-imposed deadline. Luckily, she was able to convince a company in Japan that usually only produces huge orders for big companies to produce her relatively small order. She decided to make throw pillows as she could start with only one size.
Last month she returned home with her cushion covers – a variety of colourful prints on a sumptuously soft material. In line with her desire to create the best possible product, Rui did not want to buy pre-made cushions as she wanted the cushion size to show the pillow print design in the best way possible. She bought lining material and filling from Biashara Street and experimented with different sizes and weights of the cushion before settling on the perfect size and weight. Kangarui’s ‘Explorer Cushions’ are already available from the Pinkopallino store at the Village Market and soon from the Urban African Lifestyle Company at The Hub, House of Treasures Emporium and Langata Link.
Photograph courtesy of Kangarui.