Style in the slum

Style in the slum

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Kenyan fashionista and photographer Stephen Okoth has made it his mission to stand out in Kibera, a large slum area in the capital, Nairobi.

His signature bright clothes sourced from local second-hand markets have turned him into a local personality.

Fellow photographer Brian Otieno captured Stephen on the streets of his home area.

Stephen is also known as Ondivow, a local slang word meaning “on the go”.

His friends called him that because he is always moving around Kibera for his photography jobs.

The 25-year-old was born and raised in Kibera and says he is keen to present a different image of the place, instead of the usual stories of poverty and deprivation.

When he was growing up, he was affected by the prevalence of drugs and crime, but was determined to do something different.

Stephen wanted to stand out and decided that the bright clothes would contrast well with his dark complexion.

He says most people in Kibera like the way he looks and tell him that he has a unique style.

Once, when he went out in quieter clothes, he was told that he looked boring and that he should go and change.

Stephen gets his clothes from Nairobi’s huge Gikomba market, with hundreds of shops and stalls selling second-hand clothes imported from Europe and the US.

He says that if he finds something he likes, then he will give his number to the stallholder and ask them to ring him if anything similar arrives in the future.

Stephen tries to wear a different outfit every day.

He says a pair of trousers can cost about 1,000 Kenya shillings (£8; $10) and a shirt can set him back about 800 shillings.

There are a few others in Kibera who want to dress like Stephen. He advises them to go to Gikomba every day and put in the time to sift through the piles of clothes.

Stephen says some people think he is like a sapeur, or dandy, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but he calls his style “picha marangi”, meaning colourful picture.

Photos by Brian Otieno.

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