Kanaiza founder Vanessa Onalo was raised in the buzzing East African city of Nairobi. She was always surrounded by strong, playful and nurturing women. As a child she loved to sit and listen in on stories shared amongst groups of women about their past, their childhood and their lovers. Vanessa left Kenya to study stories abroad in London , where she joined her mother. She started to identify and fall in to the world of the young diaspora. Those who belong to two or more places but seek to maintain their original stories and heritage wherever they go. Kanaiza is a name that was passed down to Vanessa in remembrance of her great great grandmother. All the women from her grandmothers side of the family are given a middle name of one of their foremothers. This is how they honour each other, it is their spin on the societal tradition of taking on the surnames of fathers. It is their way of carrying on the legacy of the women that raised their mothers. Foremother and great great grandmother Kanaiza to which the brand name is named after was said to be the most beautiful old woman anyone had ever seen.
Beauty and old age are rarely positioned together and as a brand Kanaiza seeks to ask why not and to challenge and question any unsolicited expectation on women on what they should and or can be. Kanaiza is a matriarch whose warm and joyous personality infected many and whose youthfulness and playful nature chased away old age. Kufukuza uzee. Kanaiza will live on through her children. In her memory the Kanaiza brand seeks to create a platform for dialogue about fashion aesthetics and how lessons learned from stories of real women can influence design .