Ep.1 Making Shoes for Millions | Esther Kute

Facing your fears one step at a time


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welcome to Africa design the show that takes African design to the world brought to you


by Nairobi design me I'm Adrian Kavita on this episode we're speaking with Esther Cote Esther


as the former head of design a part of Kenya she's the youngest the first female and the  first African to hold the position within the company in this conversation we discussed our


first break into the industry working with men footwear design arguing with the boss's boss


negotiating salaries launching shoes in Milan mentorship and much more be sure to visit my


Ruby design recom and subscribe to our channel for more african design and leave a review or


comment to let us know what you thought thank you they say esther thank you for joining us and it's

Interview start


a real real pleasure to have your time here I know you're you've had a very busy decade or so so and


you're someone in the Kenyan design industry who's really made it through you could say an


entire career path so it's really interesting to be able to have this conversation with you so be


great to just find out how how did you get into design in the first place okay Thank You Adrian


for having me well I studied design in University of Nairobi in my undergrad yes and to be honest I


didn't like it because I wanted to do architecture so I was called to university and I kept hoping


when they say design they mean architecture so for a long time for the first year second year


I was not the best of students of design students I'd miss classes you know I mean a tour you know


stuff like that then in the idea for actually the second yet was the end of the second year


in the university I was drafted into a program with an NGO called Terra Nova by my lecturer one


of my lecturers and I remember telling her I'm busy and she's like doing words you have to get


this done so it was a collaboration between this Italian organization Terranova the University of


Nairobi and the duo Kylie industry in Canada so basically in formal sector and what would happen


is the students at the University of Nairobi design students us would be partnered with the


Jew Akali artisans so for me for example in the first years but not with the tailor's yes based


in Congaree and Kikuyu yes so I would go there and the job boards for us to come into their business


and show them how to use the design process yes to make products so you're no longer just I don't


know patching up clothes so includes your like okay so who is my customer why am I making these


clothes for them you know my target market stuff like that you know how do I choose the colors to


compliment each other yeah so I have to say I always say that's the time I fell in love with


design because and specifically textile design because when I ended up majoring in textile and


fashion design yeah because terranova was a very intensive project you would go to the field and at


the end of it we did it two years and at the end of it we have an exhibition where people


would come and buy your products and you know there's this thing I always say design as iPods  small goods because then you you had this idea in your mind you've worked with this artisan and


you make a product that is beautiful and someone comes and then buy and they tell you this is so


beautiful and you know you were taught something like costing for example how to make your product  and cost it's what you say it without making a loss but not over pricing it and it was so funny

Esther's graduation project


when you went to the markets people would come by in my products with the artisan and they'd  be like but this is so cheap I think you should make it more expensive I'm like what you know


so it was really nice I think that woke me up to design and since then I've always been passionate


about design yeah so that's how I started anything okay okay so you started with fashion and textiles


instead of architecture and then I kind of let you naturally find your path as well yeah it's


interesting because now in our fourth year of studies we do our final year project so you're  supposed to do a research paper in the first semester where you identify a topic and then


you research about it go to field and do a paper you write a thesis about it then in the second


semester you do a practical based on the feces that you can so for me I decided I did paper on


recycling and reusing of textile waste because it was so interesting I noticed people would throw


away shoes can you imagine you're walking and you just find old shoes thrown into the dustbin bugs  thrown into the dustbin you know stuff like that so I was wondering how then can we utilize this


products and make a design business out of it so I ended up making a fashion collection for me man


and it was inclusive of birds shoes wallets you know things like that and I was using recycled


material that's a textile waste yeah so get like an old jacket for example cherry top cut


it up into a bug and I was also using old okay not really but the indigenous practices that were used


by textile designer Textil practices in Africa so I'll get let's say how would we get the old


leather jackets leave them and then stitch them into something or kills I would get an old sweater


and then remove that friends and then knit it back or crochet back of cuff you know yeah so it was a


very cool project and one of the things that I did was also make shoes so of course then I was not a  shoe designer but then again with the oil ever jackets and sweaters I designed a collection I


got a an artisan from Kabira who I actually worked with in on the chernova project yes so they made


for me a shoe collection so the funny thing is during the exhibition we call it a pinup because


that's when they it's a it's an examination basically mm-hmm you can hang up your exactly  the power so you come into it's like an exhibition you'd walk in and you'd find zero my products and


you know when you go to an auction or a sale and then they put a red dot to show you something I've


been sold that was my teen up people had bought my bugs my wireless my shoes you know yeah so it


was super funny exactly yeah that's really made me real like okay so I can actually do this mm-hmm so


have you seen on the you know the youths clothing is a big big issue in Kenya coming from abroad and


obviously as well preventing local manufacturing to get up to its potential have you seen any other


project since your graduation maybe from students or any others using waste textiles oh wow maybe


not Wes textile as such but maybe I can move back into my previous video as a Footwear designer yes


there's the project where this organization took used flip-flops pata pata and cut them


up and made a boots out of it so this okay yes I mean I was working for butter they were actually


using total waste as sure you know and it was so impressive to me that they actually made an


actual boat out of this I mean it looked really beautiful another project I noticed which was done


several years ago I cannot remember who did it no but I think the National Museum was involved and


they again used recycled waste from sea floor and they made the lion sculpture ocean sole in


oceans so yeah so they made the lion sculptures and bless them all over the city so you'd be


walking and you're like oh yes so that was very cool - isn't it there's a beautiful yeah I agree


those two projects flip-floppy is great because it's really a statement you know yeah was there


any way for someone like buttah to get involved in in those projects with offcuts or not oh yes


because much of course keeps a lot of the business side I think quiet you know but


butter recycles a lot of things yes in terms of manufacturing a lot of the materials that


we would use we will do cycle and reuse so you'd find even flip-up sometimes would get all filters


brought back to us and would cut them up and crushed into granules and then we use them in


their products that we make yeah so that is very good for the environment and one of the projects  was walking in to a street meet 2018 to 2019 nut butter the global organization has this strategy


to increase sustainability may about I think 10 percent by 2020 so what happened is we form the


committee and the idea was every country was to come up with projects that increase the stability


whether it's using recycling we're making improving lives you know when they coming up


with an innovation product something like that yeah so I was heading the well I was heading


the creation of these projects in Kenya and I'm happy to say by the time was living butter and


actually we had actually implemented them five projects so it was the highest in Africa and the


second highest project implemented in butter global yeah so was the chromed up rubber one


of those projects well since we were in create a new project yes that was already happening so


where does this the recycled rubber does it go back into soles yes into souls into gum boots


into few flops whichever it is yes so you'll find a lot of been used and recycled material in the


product okay yeah can you tell us about any of the other projects you have well I work to learn


well the sustainability ones let's stop Oh am I


[Laughter] so how did you how did you start a better what was your way in there yes you remember


in my final year project I have done shoes and of course there's are like whoa Susan Martha yeah and


I always want to talk about that's the thing even when Oceana my dad butter is synonymous with Kenya


anyone who's a Kenyan has grown up with butter you know we and that we've grown up people go Martha


fiery butter fatter you don't have you were just cool Tuffy's you know so my dad had this thing  where if you go to the doctor and you're feeling a little you know down he takes you to a butter


shop yeah to get your shoes and then you're you're happy now nice yeah and it's so funny I'll just


be like oh so what if we do this as a shop guys what if we change it like this what if we do it


like this you know but I was a child so I about am always put with butter and even my friends told me


you're the only person you've ever had whose face they want to walk with butter everyone thinks much  is a global company it doesn't have let's see an office in cannery everyone used to think but


is either owned by the government or yes so when I did my project butter advertised for designers and


that time a classmate of mine was working there for me one after I left University I'm going to


work at a fashion brand yes so up for about a year yes so he said okay I think you should


come interview I was like okay so I went with my portfolio I think like what for your so be


like a very practical you know 3-meter fabric that you screen printed yes our bill is go with a taxi


and you know bugs and bugs foods or prototypes anything like that good yes I did an interview


they each are my needs are it was fantastic you know and then they just went quiet so I thought  well well [ __ ] never went through yes I went back to work as I doing my Master's I've been


Monsieur Robie so one day I get a call I was in I was even doing um affair company I was doing I


was making product now using their worst textile so what I'll do is I'll go to geek ombre market  this is like an informal market buy second-hand clothes jacket they make bugs out of it and those


selling this yeah so I mean I really know is in my touch way I think I just come from you come back  I was sitting right in front of the speaker and I get a call and I'm like yeah who is this I can't


tell you they like oh I'm calling you from pattern they go but a relic yeah we would like you to come


in on Monday and I'm like okay cool um so I go I photos being called for another interview Oh turns


out actually calling me to hire me yeah this is like six I think it must have been a year or so


okay Wow okay so it was a while yes because I go back to you exactly just I had sort of


forgotten that and even interviewed you them yeah so when they call me back I thought it was another  interview actually what hiring me yeah so when they hired me as it was to be a graduate trainee


so there else to be trained now to become a future designer yeah and it was so funny cuz when I was


joining the department it was just not me and my boss yes the PD manager product development


manager yes so it was interesting because at that time we were now setting up other product


development departments in Africa so my boss was travelling quite a lot and it always sells


thrown into the deep end because I joined another trainee I didn't have an idea how to design a shoe


but then I had to now start design issues that are going to be made in a factory and you have


a team of men who have been in the industry for like thirty years you know they know what they're


doing and they come to me I tell you every morning it was always like a commission of men coming to


tell me the problems we are facing in the industry that I have to solve yeah so I always say by being


thrown into the deep end I had to learn faster which became an advantage to me because then


I learned very quickly I also launched how to work with all the you know when you work


with older people who are more experienced than you you start to understand ok so this is how I  should handle myself yeah so even the team are supervising within the department because we had


sample makers for example yeah these are guys who knew a lot so I had to learn how to listen


to them so you don't you don't assume you know everything yeah so over time you learn that as


much as you are supervising someone you're also collaborating with them because because if they


don't we try it you both fail so then I that's how I grew I remember we had the regional you


know to a companies multinational companies group their countries mm-hm so little bit of course they


developed markets emerging markets you know the cloud so for us Kenya fell under the emerging


markets and our regional head was based in South Africa and he used to say do not you know in a


devotee no vase copy and that always argue with him and everyone was afraid of him so in meetings


you know the way you're in a meeting and you're supposed to keep said because the boss is speaking  he would say something like do not innovate copy and to be like no we had designed us our job is to


design and so I in fact I think people especially after you get fired you need to stop speaking to

Video of conversation starts


you need to stop arguing with the moon because it's the boss of my boss of my boss or Nestle you  know I kept on telling him no I'm a I'm a designer my job is to create I cannot just copy yeah so we


would have this makan for salads and everyone used to tell me esta you will get fed when they stop  again with the boss the big big boss but it paid out because one day I'm called to the the managing


directors office and he tells me I've gotten an email from the regional manager and he wants you  to run this project and the idea was to repurpose or rebrand pata pata so he wanted to create a new


look for pata pata and we were going to work with communities based in Kenya to develop a


collection so they put me in charge of of scouting for groups so we found groups like Azuri there's


nama Jana this is a women's group like Qasr is a fair trade group where single mothers are hired


and basically they make bean out of fire T yes then ama Jana was a group of women Maasai women


who actually would have beaded our product while hiding goats and sitting under a tree from your


virgin yeah yeah so I was I cut it quite a number of how can I sell a grid in Kenya that we could


walk with because it was a sustainable 80 kind of project yeah and then we came up with a completely  new branding so imagine you're working in Kenya's but you have teams of designers working in China


working in Europe working in ok Africa you know it was really a fantastic project and you ended


up developing a collection patapata shanti the bead so we have a strap and the design on you


it's not obvious when I tell you and then you know I don't know so if we have an all-over team


that we are putting on the sole of the shoe and this is from the top so how on the top so how did


the rubber pieces go to hold your toes yes so this truck of course we have the patta platter


so assuming this is your cutter cutter utopia mm-hmm your strap will come here like that if


I just make it wait there for you to see us the zebra stripes come here so with these reliefs just


in Kenya or East Africa or all over globally so you have so this is another question I wanted to


ask you is because batter you you said you grew up on batter yes so did I in Eastern


Europe because it's a Czech company correct so so it seems like a company that established a


few markets quite early on yes and then really integrated into those markets in some way yes


the way butter works from what I've seen it's it's it gives each company autonomy so that's


yes it's global but if you ask a Kenyan if butters I can uncover the say yes owned by the government


yes if you go to Czech Republic exactly but is the shack company owned by the government


uh-huh Nigerians I was surprised but even was in Nigeria you know West Africa everyone thinks the


same way but I don't of the day it's actually owned by a family the butterfat me in fact i


we really met the fourth generation is gonna take over from there it's not a public business


and it must be for the Czech Republic it must be quite a big big company as well very huge in


fact we have we have something called butter Fashion Weekend that was a project that was


mentioned globally which is really fantastic and it leads me to talk to one of the other  project what I love about butter when I became a senior manager in 2017 I I was the first woman

Esther on being the first to hold her position at Bata, and what changes she wanted brought.


first Kenyan first black person the youngest to ever held that office before so if for me


it was very exciting and I remember asking myself so what what what change will I make when I get


to this office you know I don't want to just get there and then continue doing the same thing if  ernest has been doing because before the guys would hold the office the product development


manager in charge of designing there are always men from Europe from Asia yeah so I was like okay


I'm a Kenyan I know the problems design a space in Kenya so the first thing I did it's like hit

Bata Designers Apprentice & Bata Young Designers


the road running was to found the butter designers apprentice yes so we I don't we walk through the


universities in this case University of Nairobi and the technical capacity of Kenya they sent us


designers who are interested in participating so we had four and they did the persuasion a  competition yeah so they were to come up with a product a shoe phone that you can sell and in the


process they were going to learn about not just designing but how as a designer you incorporate


yourself into a multi-level company that is a retail brand in a manufacturing brand yeah so


they would we worked with the upcoming guys also in Kenya people who had marketing like


brand Banda their writer like because Zulu Nairobi Design Week you know so what you do we we organize


challenges for the designers so it's not just going to a class and learning it's interactive


yes so we created content around that yeah so for example they we go to a fashion blogger


Sharon and the designers favorite shoes were white woman so the designers were to come up


with a painting challenge where they customize the shoes and she pick what she likes and you


know the funny thing is once we did not challenge it created a trend that is continuing up to now  people are just painting on home our own order but you know and it's so cool every time I see


it I'm like oh my gosh this actually created it's a result of butter designers Apprentice


yeah yeah so it was fantastic it's like in 2017 ended in 2018 we got we lost Cynthia Leila and


then this runner-up Ian Abraham you go to Kashia was in fact Ian was telling us he bought a camera


yeah so the beautiful thing and we're now seeing butter Fashion Week and the global company had


about another president oh we love that and we've been doing butter Fashion Week and so  next year we want you guys to become part of it and they've only been working with a Italian Czech


company so we were the first African company to be incorporated also the first company out of Europe


be part of butter Fashion Weekend and they have a challenge called butter young designers challenge


yeah so what happened this time around we walked with the six designers I think 16 students from


University of Nairobi again went through the process of mentorship apprenticeship for them


to understand what does we take two as you're designing what do you also what you do to be part


of an organization that is multinational I don't know a global company yeah then the two finalists


got to travel to shack Republic so this time it was Cyprian and a lady I forget her name oh yes


so the two of them got to travel to Czech Republic they participated in butter Fashion Weekend and  you know it's a huge thing it's like going to my New York Fashion Week yeah they even had proper


celebrities they're like whoa and they met there now global the butter familiy the CEO you know


it was very cool for them yeah so I was really proud of that moment you know the fact that butter


different as apprentice graduating into the global but young designers challenge so that was really


those are some of the projects that I really like and then the other project that I really  liked that we worked on was there's this brand called Edwin Edwin is owned by Bono did you top


one of their roxtor Rogers problem edu n yes so they approached us and we were to collaborate to


develop our collection for suffering at pata pata yes and then once we did the collection guess what


it featured in Vogue magazine and featured in New York Fashion Week yeah so it's I mean I always say


my my my life in butter was very different from a lot of the other people in butter because then I I


got to participate in a lot of global with de Vos teammates you know like a multidisciplinary kind


of teammates so you're working with the CEO of the company you're working with the managing director  also working with your sample makers and I mean collaborating with brands trying to make a change


you know the community so it was really very fulfilling for me I think yeah and I guess a lot


of designers or creatives going into the industry sometimes don't realize that the the career path


isn't set yes so everything that you are learning and in your process is somehow potentially going


to contribute you know I was complaining when I was getting my B and chemistry at school but when


my first graduate job was working for a chemical company with design then it suddenly made made


much more sense yes exactly who knew that I'd use chemistry because you know it's chemistry


is also material science it's extremely important to understand these things and every other subject


can somehow contribute something to your your career right I mean for shoes for example there


you're talking about chemistry if you're making shoes from injected plastics plastics shrink once


they're cold so that is chemistry like that like I would walk a lot with our laboratory because


then we would have to don't have to be prescribed material that will not over shrink so imagine our


making a shoe as ice for pass when it's supposed to air it but once it's injection edge becomes


cool its size to personal car narrating yeah yeah and those are the challenges would face


when you're doing development now for design you know yeah so you have you you also come to  learn that you you have talked with a lot of different people from not just designers you


have to work with the marketers you have to work with the salespeople it's so funny I think design


becomes the most collaborative discipline in the world I think the more collaborative you are as a


designer the father you'll grow yeah I think to me it certainly seems like we get to obviously we we


may have our set of skills but we get to work with but and show our naivety and then use their skills


to try and solve some of their problems you listen to someone's problem from a different industry and


then you create a solution that still suits their industry but with the design process in it you


know we design thinking basically yes I know yeah and the manufacturing people don't realize you


know consumers don't realize that it may take Y it may take two years to develop a pair of flip-flops


it took us three years by the time we finished that project we all hated it anyone would mention


Ashanti and you're like please keep quiet because we had I think it had gotten to a point where I


remember we were supposed to ship out like a pilot shipment I think you're supposed to


be 20 cut ones each ten pairs about 200 pairs and I'm telling you they're rubber we were using four


because the the rubber compound to use the sword was supposed to be softer and more luxurious you


know and it was shrinking there I'm telling you you make it a size 10 it should suffice for yes


so we are trying to fix this problem and it is not working we did the time but you are supposed  to I'm telling you it was a day I remember we were in the office myself my boss at the time


was the PD manager and then company manager can imagine a whole company manager packing slip flow


into cutters which we can ship them out because we have a deadline to reach and that's that's


another interesting thing that you know your work is like sometimes you're just expected to


do things that it's a hustle its entrepreneurship you know the boss doesn't look down on the job of


packing flip-flops because that's another thing is if those flip-flops don't get packed the sales


don't get made eventually and this could have a much larger impact because I think a lot of the


time maybe junior staff don't realize how much impact they're having on an organization yes and


I think for me being a senior manager getting to management taught me a lot about there how


can I say you know when we say ignorance is nice when you're a junior in a company oh my god you


really enjoy a lot of ignorance we would go to board meetings and your tools we have to cost  cut this year we have to cost cut four hundred thousand US dollars and you know they'll not even


tell you how to do it they're like figure it out it's your job as a senior manager how do you do it  then how do I save the company 40 million Kenyan shillings in a year you know and you know you're


not supposed to fire anyone but you're supposed to make a saving but the easiest thing is PI  everyone you know so and I started to understand the amount of pressure people go through I always


say every time I observe people in power look for example like Obama by the time Obama was leaving


the White House he looked like an old one he had white hair look at Obama now he has swag he looks


like a fatty old guy just chilling why because there are so many tough decisions to be made every


single time so I think any time you as a designer you work with some money in power or let's try to


put yourself in that position I think that taught me a lot it was the best experience I've ever had


because then I've worked I think for me working in the same company as a junior you know designer and


then now as a senior manager you start to see both sides and you start to understand ah ah so this is


why this is done you know and I remember reading somewhere the boss knows why but you is not the


boss feeling will know what you understand so your boss will come and tell you sweep this place you


don't know why but you spit the boss knows why and that's why they're the boss so if you want to get


to the point where you're a boss whether it's you running your own company or you being the boss in  a company that is run by someone else you have to start understanding why things are done yes yeah


otherwise my I think my first my first manager always told me as well always be looking up and


down because the people above you you should really be looking at how to help them fulfill


their objectives so that they can look higher and help you and that you can be managing than people


below you so that they are aware of why they are doing what they're doing so that they are aware


of the importance of that exactly actually the best for me one of the best advice I ever got


was make your boss's life easier the moment you make your money just boss I mean your money just


like yeah I love you forever yeah and you you will get hurt a lot of things just because of that yeah


because actually that's the thing when you when you do things that maybe aren't asked of you yeah


you know all shouldn't be asked of you then you you really get a step up when when you drop the


ball yeah because they'll be like well I made a mistake but yes they try this is the person who


gets things done this is the person who sees ahead you know yeah don't wait to be told to  do something if you can do it without being told you know yeah it's very it's it's a it's a thing


I don't know maybe you see as creatives we we suffer from a lack of discipline even myself


when when I look at my younger self and now I've really developed a sense of discipline that I did


not have we sleep wherever we in fact we like saying I'm not a morning person you know but


then if you go into an industry where people are mourning for people what happens do you want do


you want let's say the president of Kenya to meet you at night because you're not a morning person  yeah because your target should be if you're a squatter for example you should be a thing


okay I want to make up cut to a bust you know made out of cast iron of the president of Kenya yeah so


you're going to be like okay so I'll be meeting him at midnight because I'm not a morning person  you know yeah if you're if you're going to to run projects you will have to learn project management


for example and sometimes you don't have to go to school to learn project management but you have  to have basically to be able to manage a team imagine managing a team that is not best like


in the same location as you are you're managing a team sub based in China time zones are different


so based in Europe time zones are different you're managing a team where some people are I don't know


I never learn you some people watch on much higher level than you so how then do you deal with this


it's discipline basically yeah so creatives at some point we do like this so it holds us back


so I think we can't use it as an excuse anymore yeah we you sort of have to realize and almost


used to tell my boss honest and then he would love every time I would go negotiate my salary  I'll tell you you know my business yeah the way butter is a business I am a business and currently


I'm working at a Louis and you'd love okay it's a professional examination so you have to think


of yourself even though you're an individual as a business yeah sometimes the business could be  doing something purely based on CSR that's okay volunteer mentorship like for me I really I think


my my one major thing was I want to mentor as much as I can give back because I feel I've gotten to


the level who I am as a designer purely because of the people who mented me yes yes like the lecturer  who signed me up for Terranova she changed my life souse out yes Francisco dunno University


of Nairobi oh yes because without that I may never have loved design as much as I love design oh yeah


professor dodge pedo he was my supervisor for my masters yeah and actually okay also my undergrad


actually yes he is a product designer but we were doing textile design we were only three the class


and we did not have a supervisor because there are no textile designers and we we had a group


we had a meeting at the three of us and we're like okay we think all Doge could teach us because he's  a very he has interests in a lot of design he's not those he's not narrow-minded it's very broad


vision yes he actually taught me last be brought don't just narrow your mind to one thing and we


went to the school the director of the school and we convinced her to get her Dutch to be  our supervisor honestly he his way of thinking you talk to any designer in Kenya they will tell


you he's touched their life positively in one or another yeah so currently the director of


school at technical capacity of Kenya yes design then there's a doctor Suki Suki mundo for her I


think what I took away from Sookie was excellent she does not she does not want things that are


not excellent and I know perfection is not good but sometimes aiming for perfection mix mix you


learn that 80% or 90% you get as opposed to being like yeah whatever you know creative how yeah yeah


okay I'm in the mood for you know whatever yeah so she got me out of that mentality of whatever


when you do something do it to the best of your ability yeah and if you look at the designers


were celebrated globally look at ivy what's his name they designer for journey I don't know


yeah I mean obsessive obsessive yeah I honestly wish I could be that obsessive because I am NOT


what she might be my nature but look at how just become I mean we are sitting in front of an April


designed for that mm-hmm it's just amazing how obsessive really he went obsessively after


perfection basically it was never about this can do let's move on it was no it has to work and it


has to work right then yes and I think the other thing that I noticed you see in Kenya in school


I'm trained to be a product designer unfortunately product design is sort of dying we are moving into


industrial design yeah and I'm sure for you you saw it when you're in Europe yeah you sure you


actually trained more as an industrial designer yeah we had so my university had a BSC which


was called product design and technology and a BA which was called industrial design and technology  so the BSC was more focused around engineering electronics and mechanics their technical skills


and then our degree was more focused around the human studies understanding of emotion in fact my


thesis was around designed for emotion so it was very much kind of human centered that's where I


kind of choose to chose to go but when I started University Johnny I've was the guy right it was


the he was the one that I think most upcoming aspiring product designers wanted want it to


be and I think what is really important is to remember that these things that look so simple


to us from the outside the more simple something is the more complicated it was to execute exactly


because the original computer had cables and a mouse of the you know everything was connected


then it had a separate Tower and now we're just down to a single screen that good designers about


what you take away but they say I think you're just Mary in Monroe it wasn't even a designer she


used to say if you look at yourself after you've dressed up and you're going out for example and


you think something is wrong start by removing the last thing you put on yourself so if it was makeup


remove the makeup if it was earrings remove the earrings you know yeah simplicity well if it is


it is genius actually genius is simplicity yes a lot of people think someone like you're not the


da Vinci a lot of people think he's a genius and I used to think he's a genius and at some point I  got obsessed with him I used to be like wow this guy is very inspirational to me you know and I'd


read up about him and not be like what scales not a genius he's just curious you know yeah


like he had the habit of doing something over and over and over and it was no working yeah and he


also had vast interests you know so he he actually invented people say he was the inventor of surgery


as we know it now although maybe there's a group of African women who we found invented there it's


before Julius Caesar yeah but he turns out he was his interests were not just enough yes it was


you science it was maybe thing it was in military like helicopters time you know and what how did he


learn he did go to school to learn it he actually did a lot of observation huh there's a dairy that


was found for your Anatomy G and you just so funny to me because you know they're you're writing here


to-do list one of them was to go see Kigali no yes to attend Galileo's lecture and hahahaha


yeah so for him it was those things of like Jesus I think if they are doing instead of being to go


meet Jesus you know about religion or something like that so as a designer apart from being able


to create simple products you have to start being curious you really have to be a curious person and


we live in a world that is becoming so intertwined you can no longer say I'm just a designer like for


me I always tell people I started as a textile like I mean that's what I my training the textile  and fashion design but I've ended up practicing as a product designer more than a fashion designer


actually yeah and I've actually also become a lecturer of almost I mean I've been a manager


now you know I've been able to do even project management cause of all the projects you know


so it becomes very fluid over time we can no longer be rigid and say I'm a graphic designer


you have to figure out a way to sort of make them flow into each other and be curious be be the


person who knows what's happened in the Trump at the same time was happening with breakfast at the


same time what's happening with April journey has retired how does that affect people as a company


you know you still have to be curious about very fashion currently in this a global recession and  in Kenya we can feel the effects of that recession so you know you have to start asking yourself as


a designer how do these things affect me yeah look at now the fourth the fourth Industrial Revolution


which for me must be just because let me tell you the one thing I hated relevant purpose was to use


a computer so that's changed now I have to change it because out of person if you give me a digital


artwork to do I will do it very quickly by hand I would be able to just do technical drawings


and get you a repeat pattern instead of doing it on computer and that could give you in four  different colorways options but Papa by hand but now I'm searching to realize I have to change it


so I'm asking myself how do I do it maybe I can avoid using computers by becoming a policy maker


you know maybe become a cabinet secretary or the president yeah or I just actually


get myself my hands dirty start working with 3d machines printing and you know doing all this


thing yeah see to the compute and land you know illustrator in 3d marks and all those things but


it's a chance I have to make and it's not we can no longer ignore the fourth Industrial Revolution


because if event sorta is looking at oten on autonomous cars yeah self-driving cars who are


we to not be called you know no yes we have to be more interested in AI and robotics and how do you


think I like how we left Alexa effect education into color for example exactly yeah the way you


talked about the 3d printing of Brady Brady I mean that's fantastic and I keep saying we we


are constantly behind in Kenya maybe in Africa also we are constantly behind because I feel we


wait for trends to happen then to jump on them I think we need to start to be the church that being


the transition we've been talking for the last 10 years or so about going to live on mass if


they're a designer who's working with the teams that are doing this from K so we need to start


thinking that aspect how do I become value to to Richard Branson's team building a spaceship that


we take people a passenger ship - how do I start working with Ellen mask to build the rocket like


those kind of questions even if you're not in the team but just as pet projects maybe mm-hmm yeah I


think it's really important to be you know we live in a world of consumption you know that that's


come from consumerism and capitalism and perhaps it's something that we're now looking so half the


world is aspiring to be what half the world is potentially starting to realize isn't the right


right way to look at things so now there was a I think Trevor Noah was saying something about you


know hippies in America now we're going barefoot right but when Africans were doing it was it was


basic and I think it's really crucial like you said for the entire world to be learning from


cultures from the rest of the world because you know the way the communities live in Africa for


example in Kenya is really fascinating you know there are so many medicines and from you know


Chinese medicine African things and from all over the world we really just need to kind of


get away from this assumption that everything that's Western and plastic is good so how so


going back to you know your mentorship and your kind of passion for developing young talent how


do what's your legacy at better now besides the you know besides all the designers apprentice


and all the projects you've left behind is the team more like a call now yes I'm so happy by the


time I was leaving but I we had hired basically convict the boss to hire from Kenya yes and one


we one apprentice that I was hoping would be developed or my time to become not only just a


sample make up but in the end to become a designer himself yeah so it was a small team by the time


it's so interesting managed him I joined but I it was just me and the boss by the time I left  but I think the team was ok me the boss and the sample me the sample me cos were three no to to


sample makers me as the designer and the most so four people so my time I've left butter the


team is three sample makers and four designers so that's how many people seven eight on YouTube


I hope I always used to say when I leave I hope the person who takes over from me will


be a Kenyan not someone that has to be brought in from Asia or Europe and that was used to tell my


team walk towards sitting on the same feet that I am now mm-hmm I think that's absolutely crucial I


mean first like we always openly say you know and I really designed me cuz I should be run  by Kenyans and that's the long-term ambition for East Africans at least you know so what else what


else what other kind of interesting anecdotes might you have from from your experiences in


your career I think do not be afraid yes and it's funny because everyone has fear so I think last


thing of courage is not the absence of fear it's facing the fear that is very true the moment you

Esther on facing your fears, skydiving and taking big opportunities.


feel too afraid to do certain things I think is them is the time to push mm-hmm look for


me when I have a few of heights I go skydiving I'm not sure everyone does that that's a brave


brave thing yeah yeah you know when I was told I'm going to become this development manager I


was like my gosh I'm so young I had a different plan for the future you know I was so afraid I


have to say I was not being freaked me out for so long but then I would say what if I had not


done it completely different life now you know yeah so it's not that there's no fear it's just


that try plan practice how to overcome your fear you tend you realize your life becomes very much


fuller yes and also pushing yourself out of your comfort zone yeah okay so that's not so top three


tips then for creatives coming into the industry wanting to to make it let's say that's number one


just go for it I think in terms of here yeah go for it if they sense that if you want to work


for example with Osborn Acharya you know this fantastic work I mean I have you know it's so


funny when you meet your legend and then they know of you and they buzz Osborne is walking


with the opera's team is working with their you know marvel you know yeah so if you want to work


with also put my share for example find a way walk with him when item is vanity are reading


more you know begging stalking him until he says yes just you know that I think we need to be the


generation that starts living life by you how we feel how we feel and how we want and just go


for it be the change makers be the people who we can be written about guys will be like more


esta could have made changer yeah let's be like watch let's stop being Luke home designers yeah


when you when you read about the people who inspire you for example yeah they were never

On looking up to people like Osborne Macharia, living how we want & making a change: “let’s stop being luke-warm designers”.


look who they were they were they were all out you know yes I think I'm about 20 my life where


I want to be all out not just Timmy DeLuca you know following the flow yeah and part of living


butter for me was that as you know sure yeah it was I've gotten comfortable how do I get myself


out of this comfort zone because now everyone is the first youngest whatever you're the oh  my god so you start getting used to this also but the other thing for designers maybe this


is the second no no this is still under fear do not listen to people when they praise you


such don't internalize please don't internalize criticism because there's few else fear you'll


always be like I cannot live better what will people say about me you know what you know but


opens doors for me if I just am from butter for suddenly yeah but what if I say I'm Esther and


this is what I do you will not open doors for me you you get yeah so when people praise you


too much or they criticize you too much it really feeds into your mind and it feeds into your fear


then you start caring too much about what people think as opposed to what you feel this um there's


a force that guides us towards a certain path but we only fighting it in the biggest fighter of that


force is usually fear so that's one fear I add to what you said about Osborn because he you were


there at my Ruby Design Week when he was talking and he said that you know it's a perfect example


because he literally said he got into the industry by giving himself side projects mini projects


right and he just created and again instead of consuming consumption is great because we learn


and so on but creativity lets you explore your own right and it takes you where you don't even


realize you would have gone so you know creating his own projects look where look where he's gone


now and it's not too the next person he wants to work with him can't do this the same thing yeah


so that's one so the second thing I would say is you have to work hard we had that generation


that has been stalled over that we've been told over and over that we have to work smart and I

On hard work, respect and building a reputation.


think that has sort of given us a skewed view of how life works unfortunately in life you have to


work hard they you'll never escape it if you ask Osbourne Masseria he'll tell you that this is a


time where he just had to put his head down and work and just get the work done without excuses


without flaking on people you know creatives we are known for flicking a lot I say I'll do this


if you tell someone I'm going to give you this project in two weeks give it in one week and


the promise of a deliverer always and I think that's the other thing for me I had gotten to


a point where I was fighting two-man politics so you over-promised under-deliver and it's terrible  it's a terrible feeling for yourself yeah yeah so you need to impress yourself before you impress


other people and one of the ways you do that is under-promise over-deliver every single time if


you say I'll give you in two days give them in half a day always be that possible because what  happens over time people in their minds know if anything is to be done if it to asakadai why she


gets it done it's quickly and she would like to you in fact she'll do it quicker you always


always always I think it will save you a lot of grief and it will earn you a lot of respect yes


and respect is important trust me sometimes respect will get your father than any other  thing yes so is that number three we've got to and the promise of a deliverer mainly because


then you are respect and you earn confidence yes which is what you need sure anytime someone is


referring you to someone else it's purely because of that yeah so what's the third thing I think the


third thing is be true to yourself we will we want to imitate salads I mean we're living in


you know in a generation where we are bombarded by people's lifestyles and and I see a lot of people


struggling with this and I think this is more from a personal perspective than just professional so  both ways you know a you know what for example want to live in Runa because why is that within


your means it's not even within your plans yeah maybe you would never want you to live in Runa so


why are you forcing yourself to do this you know just to show people that you're not I don't know


there's not keeping up with the Jonases that is happening right now that is a betta its side and


you've heard of people living in depression and you know and I think mostly it's because of this  you feel you do not measure don't they say they the thief of joy is comparison so don't compare


yourself to other people if s piccata is the senior managing but I don't know such wanting


to be the senior managing butter I mean what is your strength what she's true to yourself go and


do that maybe your strength is to travel to India and teach kids in India how to design them you


know the design process do you do that and you'll find since that is your purpose you'll grow more


when you go to someone else's purpose you become miserable then you start thinking of yourself as


a business yeah because then you also treat I mean you see how businesses treat themselves


very seriously yeah if it's I've never gone to a business where people just walk in any time of


the day at you okay I'm checking into our coach - oh they have a set time for okay so if work


starts itself like at Matta actors actually 7 25 25 that's like school registration to be in the


office late yeah so if a company that has been running for hundreds of years because butter


celebrator I think was it hundred and thirty-four yeah if a company that's been running for that  long still has those you know processes they're standard procedures who are you as an individual


know to have standard operating procedures you know yeah so start treating yourself as  a business then you start handling yourself as a business making money for example I think I only


say this I love money I will do things for free as volunteer and all these things but at the end


of the day I love money and that's I always say is one of my Indians and one of the reasons why


I love money is because if I have a lot of it I can make even more change honestly yes because I


have such big dreams for myself it has such like for example I would like to have a private matter


designers apprentice that I can run for years and years and years you know yeah every I just get a


cohort of student designers and they are able to come and let's say to me land or travel to South  Africa travel to Rwanda and you know learn about design and all and honestly the things that I


would love to do with my time in my life you know my legacies basically you know yeah so money is a


good thing let's know unlight you that money's not everything but it should not rule your life


so what will happen sometimes you'll be forced to make decisions where you will lose money but

Advice she received on experience & money from fashion mentor Ann McCreath years ago.


the bigger picture you will gain more and mcribs give me very good advice long time ago maybe she


doesn't really remember she told me Esther if you can learn if you can get a company to pay


you no matter how little virtual learning please use that opportunity and for me about preachers


battle so basically what has been my MBA project yes I've basically gotten an MBA by being one by


working in butter yeah fantastic advice and they only see if you offered money or experience take


the experience know exactly what time to be hungry son agree yeah and once you get money plan your


life don't be I think we were saying before is such a recording you're buying Black Label it's


everything every weekend Oh every night you know yeah enjoy a metric on it now enjoyment I think


you have to be level-headed in such a way that like for me I I'm not actively working right now


but I'm able to pay my bills I'm able to drive my car I'm able to go have fun yeah why because


I had a plan yeah if you're able to get financial advisors get financial advisors sit down talk to


them they will method are very good because they they give you they get you to list down the things


about your life that you want so it's very clear yes is it you want to a housing runed or is it a


house in Millian apartment in Dubai in the budge what do you want and then how do I achieve that


and how in what period of time do you want you know so usually when you have a stranger looking


into your life they have a clear view because they are unbiased they don't have any barriers to us so  they give you a very clear vision if you're able to also get a life coach because I got one night


how to load the good thing with a life coach you can cry out to them a bit like you know financial


advisors they'd be like why are you crying life coach will be like for me the one I go to event


talking about spirituality you know so she'll be like is this aligned to your spirituality yeah so I know we are designers and I know we are creatives and most of the time we are not


expected event to be successful why why can't we be the successful ones why country have kids grow


up and say I wanted to be i d-- right now because of the socrata because of Adriane because of you  know yeah why is it that i want to be a doctor I want to be an engineer sure or now a politician


could be still so much yeah you know so we need to get to a point where we are guiding lights we are

Summary of her advice.


actually changing lights you know we are we are the EFI you need to success yeah I like that so


once again the three points yeah do not get rid of fear yes so go three of your courses fear is


constant just go through it learn how to power through your fear yes - oh it's - now I think


we over promise yes and yeah from the promise of a believer so that you can gain respect mm-hmm


yeah you can be what is it calls reliable person exactly yes so you can respect and you're very


reliable password that's two and then three treat yourself as a business yes so handle your finances


properly don't try to be like everyone else because a business like matter matter sells shoes


have you ever seen better train yourself a time like Safari comes when they become their business


so focus on your business stop leave other people's business out of it yeah then handle your


money in such a way that it's run like a business yeah if you need to invest invest yeah if you need


to leave opportunities so that you can create time for better opportunities in which I've been  do that or you know but don't find excuses just because you don't have the materials the truth is


absolutely I mean you said that you went into you know you get on offer to get paid for something


right and you went to bat oh but you spent two years doing the Terranova project which gave you


experience for free which allowed you to get there right without the free experience from Terranova


you wouldn't have so our three of here do not let it hold you back to and the promise of a


deliverer every time so that you can be respected and consistent in your work and then three treat


yourself like a business handle your money right handle your spirituality right let's stop trying


to live like everyone else yeah and mind your business basically so now that you're taking


and taking a break have you got any plans for the coming for the coming months in wresting no let me


tell you a story about how I got my first job this is the thing when we do our final year project in


design its intensive because you now go walk with us active fans and all this it usually gets to a


point where for us the many in the class we would always have stylish Li China turbans on our heads


and scarves and all and someone like oh you're such a designer mm-hmm it's because my hair looks


like a mess I don't even have time to comb my hair or go to the solo that is how crazy you should get


yeah so by the time would finish our projection do the peanut for the exhibition and exam we would


all tell ourselves we are going to sleep for a full 1 month doing nothing that's what you tell


yourself and I remember meant for me I got our room in compass I it was a bit illegal I could


mean someone to allow me to stay in their room so I paid I think for three months yes I could


miss them I tell them for three months so they let me stay in their room then I went I bought  snacks movies serious all those things I was like oh I'm going to sleep for one month guess what


happened to me I went to sleep I was awaking like in the middle of the night I woke up no I'm like I


can't even sleep anymore just happening to me and then I was like oh gosh I tried I tried watching  I could not watch a series or a movie I tried eating the snacks I couldn't I couldn't sleep


this is a sleeping for fallers I felt so tired so I such I was like no what can I just like


let me make a list of the jobs people not like to open so I remember my listeners and my Creed for  those Monica Connery knows you know Syrah oh you know the people sounds like okay so the next day


I was like okay I'm going to go to these places and ask them for a job yeah so I didn't I didn't


sleep for even a day not even one a month hidden sister I couldn't not sit still so this we live


sabbatical not a second I told myself that I'm going to sleep I promise oh my gosh I asked okay


I have to admit the first two months of access because for sure I didn't sleep quite a bit and  then I have a very good friend of my shoes called okay we call a tight tight invited me to stay with


her and her family for she have this small baby and just remember so it was really therapeutic  for me you know because I have and we are really good friends I mean it's fun when I'm with her


yeah so it was a lot of talking you know she's on maternity leave it was fun and then the baby is I


keep saying the Liana was my therapy like I just hold her then we clipped like she's born in April


we are a so it's kind of like weekly yes I would hold her and should keep quiet and everyone else  would hold her hand she's crying which was the first two months of fantastic because of that


that's social connection you know I think I had sort of lost it because I was always too busy so


this brought back that whole sense of community for me yeah sorry I'll sleep a lot to be honest


I cannot sleep anymore sorry I am a workaholic I've agreed and I've come to accept myself as


I am salty maybe I'm definitely interested in doing my PhD yeah in fact so that's I'm looking at


applications and all those kind of things and tell us about your interest areas I'm definitely the


fourth Industrial Revolution yeah I'm really like how do i as a designer fit into this whole picture


yeah so 3d printing although it's already here with us how do we make it mainstream as opposed


to currently the wait a bit more experimental you know and how do we apply it to Kenya Africa yeah


interested in how every time someone says someone is going to Mars unlike what I read somewhere that


Puma Puma was designing for people who will be living in Mars like why didn't I think of that


crossover exactly I was like why for sure do you need certain kinds of clothes different from what


is on earth if you're going to live on earth you know yeah so um I'm at that point where I


want to figure out my place in this whole fourth Industrial Revolution mm-hmm and not for now for


the future you know yes like in the next five or ten years or even 20 years like how will a pocket


a half each end there so that would probably be my PhD research sure this is and the other thing


well as a battery used to get a lot of requests for customers shoes for guys with the deformities


or a bulk differently and we all used to struggle the truth you know to supply Yeah right you know


because the demand was higher than and also in terms of the equipment we never quiet that was not


our area of course attrition soon equipment was about there you know and I've really been thinking


how then do I feel that Cup because I have the expertise I have the experience I just need to do


it yeah so it's like a question I've been saying I've been telling myself this is something I need


to do mm-hmm I just it it's it's just streamlining things into how can I see maybe three or four


bullet points mm-hmm things I want to do because I mean it's as a person you can't say you're doing


just one thing and then you're like I cannot do the rest that's been crazy yeah yeah so you can


do at least maybe three four things do one thing well instead of doing ten things those are the


areas of concentration of course teaching I love teaching I smell good I miss teaching I think oh


if anything I've always said I won't treat air when I'm 40 mm-hmm from active employment it's


about I'm able to control the things I walk on but I think I'll treat her I only said yeah I'll just


drop dead in class when I for teaching I honestly I love it I'll just be like I'm 8 years old with


my I'm sure your lecturers will be happy today I think they've definitely had an impact on and they


never thought I would love to do that much I think it was those things out like oh I don't think I'll  do it was really fantastic when I did it because I was teaching at the Technical University of


Kenya yeah a lecture you design courses yeah so it I really really enjoyed it and it was to see


that I'm making a change I think that was maybe the thing for me like you actually see change  you see a student joining that class and a lot of students the good thing is over time they became


more interested in having like for me in the beginning I wanted to be an architect yeah so it's


true time for me to go a to move to LA design it's good to see that a lot of people now watch to be a


designer so they've not been forced into design yes but then there's a a lack of clarity about


what design is especially confusing it's still not sure even I'm sure if you ask a random stranger


if you ask a random stranger in the street what if design they'll probably not be able to tell


you what design fashion furniture may be a lot of people when you ask them or designers they think


oh oh so it's only fun when I go for meetings with the cabinet secretaries and all this roundtable


meetings and then they they like you and I come at design and the logo can you draw me what we do so


for me to see students in the beginning not even on a sunny would design it and by the end of the


semester this is three months they they are solely on what design is and they're so clear on who and


they're so clear on their future path and that passion they have so it's all about just design


you know it's now a passion yeah for me that was fantastic amazing amazing well thank you


very much absolute pleasure is there anything else that you would like to tell or ask our community


maybe you have a question for everyone I think I would just say what is your passion I always


ask yourself that what's your passion like one a are you doing what you're doing yeah I think  that question there it's a very cliche question but they always say what would you do if you had


suddenly a lot of money mm-hmm would you still continue doing what you're doing if you didn't  have to work exactly yes you need to have to work if you or your rent was paid you have everything


yeah so if then you if you had money you would stop doing what you're doing why are you doing


it then and this is not just for designers it's for everyone we in Kenya we are living a life


where people are doing things because they have to as opposed to they want to mm-hmm let's do things


because we want to absolutely so while you are on sabbatical so we don't encourage too many people


to cram your inbox but if people do want to find you see what you're up to where can they find you


oh I've been trying to get off social media good good that's not a bad thing yeah but well I mean


just such a staccato mm-hmm because the good thing is currently most of my social media yeah yes send


me an inbox in which ever you find whether it's Twitter whether it's LinkedIn although I'm not


so much anything where else yes yeah don't tweet oh yeah perfect yeah thank you thank you so much


Adrian be sure to visit my Ruby design week calm and subscribe to our channel for more african


design and leave a review or comment to let us know what you thought thank you they say [Music]


[Applause] [Music]


[Music] [Music]


you [Music] [Music]

Esther Kute, the youngest senior manager and first female Product Development Manager at Bata Kenya

With products she designed being sold globally, featured at NYC Fashion Week, gracing the pages of Vogue magazine, and fetching millions in USD, Esther's achievements are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Throughout this episode, we'll gain exclusive insights into the process behind Esther's work, the dedication she brings to her craft, and the creative vision that sets her apart in the industry. You'll get a glimpse into the world of Design from the perspective of an exceptional talent who has redefined boundaries and broken barriers, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.