Fashion  60 minutes with … Jawad Braye of ENZI
From a childhood in Kenya to studying in London to now living in Paris, Jawad Braye, Creative Director of ENZI reveals his inspiration, advice and fashion philosophy in this exclusive interview with Shop des Créateurs.


Please tell us a little bit about your background: what did you study as a student and how did you branch into the fashion industry?

I’ve always been interested in footwear and sneakers especially. Our co-founder is a witness to the endless sketches of shoes I would draw while we were in high school. Unaware that I could study to become a footwear designer, I enrolled into a fashion school in the UK after high school in Kenya.
While doing the fashion illustrations I found myself spending more time working on the footwear that accompanied the garments! My tutor noticed and asked if I would be interested in designing footwear. So I quickly put together some very amateur sketches of shoes and applied to Cordwainers which is part of the London College of Fashion. Cordwainers specializes in footwear design and we were required take our sketches/ideas to a full product.  Once I began my studies there I immediately knew I had found what I wanted to do.

Having been born and raised in Kenya, completing your studies in the UK and now living in Paris – you are quite the globetrotter. How has your international background influenced your designs?

Living in these different countries has given me insights into how a brand can communicate cultural ideals.  Similar to how other luxury brands embody the ideals of their respective countries or cities, ENZI reflects the beauty we see in African countries.  Our products pay homage to classic silhouettes enhanced with subtle details that highlight the amazing raw materials Africa has been blessed with.

I draw inspiration from various cities across the world where I have lived or visited.  This has also made me more conscious of the impact of the production process in specific communities. It has made me realize the power of producing quality goods that can make a difference and it will hopefully inspire others to do the same.


We understand ENZI has been a childhood dream. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

I have been fascinated with the evolution of global brands since high school. Late night conversations with close friends in Kenya ingrained the desire to connect a brand with our culture heritage.

A few years down the road ENZI was born. With my experience in footwear design, the opportunity arose and our desire to confront negative perceptions of Africa was even stronger.


Why did you guys choose to design shoes?

Most of my training and experience has been in footwear.  I’ve worked both directly for specific brands and also for a footwear design agency, which has exposed me to a wide range of styles and production processes. So once we made the right connections with the right tanneries and capable manufactures in Ethiopia, it was on. I do have some experience in apparel, which we’re expanding into, but we believe that footwear is a strong foundation for our brand.

We started with a limited collection of natural earthy tones, which compliment any outfit without taking over the look.

All raw materials are sourced in Ethiopia and made in Ethiopia. Why did you guys choose Ethiopia?

Our goal as a brand is to search out the best raw materials available in Africa and create high-end products with them. After several years of research, the road led us to Ethiopia, which has some of the world’s finest leather. Ethiopia’s has the highest number of livestock in Africa and due to its high elevation creates skins that are both soft and resilient, making them perfect for footwear.

ENZI is a very unique name. How did you guys come up with it?

We wanted to use a name that was short, easy to pronounce and that encapsulated our ideals. Enzi is a Swahili word, which has a few relevant meanings, but is most commonly used to define an era. This resonates with our vision to redefine perceptions of Africa in this new era of progressive development.


What’s your favorite way to wear ENZI?

With a crisp pair of dark indigo Japanese denim and a polo shirt.

Do you have a style muse or icon? Phrase or fashion philosophy to live by?

My style icons are Hiroki Nakamura, founder and CEO of Visvim, and Paul Smith. Both take classic products; make them from the best materials whilst giving each item a unique twist.

I believe the underlying philosophy we share is captured in this poem which I always keep with me:

In words as fashion the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
~Alexander Pope

Having been a young designer yourself, (pursuing your dreams straight out of high school) do you have any advice to aspiring new and/or young designers?

The fastest way to learn and improve your skills is through hands on experience. If you’re at university look for internships. It’s a great way not only to improve your work but also to meet people with similar interests and dreams. Share your ideas and seek feedback from more experienced players in the industry. You may not always like what you hear, but be humble and be open to learn new things.


Besides fashion design, what are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your leisure time?

I constantly challenge myself and learn new skills. I’ve recently taken up boxing, which I find is a great way to stay fit and sharp. I’m also a huge movie buff and pride myself I finding the most obscure unknown movies. I find it helps my creative process by removing my mind from the daily grind.

How does ENZI fit in Shop des Créateurs? Do you have a favorite brand from the shop?

Shop des Créateurs promotes up and coming, design oriented brands from across the world, offering unique selections outside of mainstream fashion markets. On the fashion side, we are a fan of Mischief sweaters and jackets that feature creative designs incorporating geometric shapes. Several of their garments would pair very nicely with our shoes.

On the vision side, I believe that we’re closely aligned with Maisha Concept, which shares a similar cultural heritage as our brand. The founder of Maisha Concept, Rahkee, also grew up in Kenya and fuses traditional fabric with contemporary styles.

Run by two young French Fashionistas, Shop des Créateurs is the authoritative source for independent and genuinely creative-fashion online. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Shop des Créateurs is an independent fashion marketplace, curating the best of edgy designers from around the world, at an affordable price point.

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