Allen The Dapper is best known for working with Kenya's biggest stars. Photo: Fidel _Tall and Lewis Kimathi 

By Pauline Odhiambo

Bold, unique and never simple. This is how Kenyan celebrity fashion designer Allen ‘the Dapper’ Igatanyi defines his style.

His distinct designs have earned him a name in the Kenyan fashion scene, with some of the biggest names in the music industry – Mejja, Otile Brown and gengetone artists Ethic – wearing his eclectic clothing brand, FALA Wear.

But not many people know that the brand – short for Fashionable African Latest Attire – started with Allen transforming one of his late mother’s plain office outfits into a colourful creation with an African twist.

“It was a blue palazzo-style trouser suit which I quickly cut off to make shorts,” he tells TRT Afrika. “I also cut off the coat sleeves then put African print fabric on the back and also on the lapels.”

Allen was often teased about his 'quirky' fashion sense. Photo: 19.kulture 

Fashion ‘fool’

This was the first of many such designs that would earn him the name ‘fala’ – meaning ‘fool’ in Kenyan slang.

“I was always that guy wearing quirky African-style clothes. People would see me coming and say, cheki yule fala (look at that fool),” Allen, 29, recalls with a smile. “So I thought, why not transform that name into something positive and use it as my brand? And that’s how Fala Wear was born in 2015.”

His moniker – ‘the dapper’ also has an interesting origin.

“That name actually came from a pastor in church. While he was preaching to the congregation, he pointed at me and said, ‘God likes people who are clean and look dapper like this boy.’ I thought Allen ‘the dapper’ had a nice ring to it so I started referring to myself that way until it stuck.”

Allen The Dapper considers himself self-taught after dropping out of a fashion design college. Photo: Lewis Kimathi 

Allen would later enroll at the prestigious Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts (BIFA) in the capital, Nairobi, but quickly dropped out to fully focus on his own designs.

“My experience at BIFA was good but I didn’t even last a week there because it made no sense to me to sit in a classroom listening to a lecture about fashion when I could learn more by actually working in the industry.”


His first ever styling gig ended up being a music video shoot – a thankless job that, according to Allen, paid more in "experience" rather than the cold, hard cash he preferred.

“For that shoot, I had to dress everyone in all the scenes, and that was tough because I didn’t have a styling team that could help put all the outfits together. Doing all that and not getting paid in the end was frustrating to say the least.”

The opportunity nonetheless paved the way to more styling gigs which gradually helped him establish his brand. His big break came when an opportunity to style Jimmy Gait – one of the biggest Kenyan gospel artist at the time – opened up.

Styling music videos helped Allen establish his brand. Photo: Collins Allindi 

“That video was a hit and a defining moment for me as a stylist because I had somehow managed to be part of this hit song that everyone was singing along to at the time,” says Allen.

“I suddenly had so many other artists and even people in general reaching out to me wanting to work with me and buy my designs. This opened up more opportunities to collaborate with other fashion brands as well.”

Celebrity status

Getting artists camera-ready and working in close quarters with film and TV professionals also gave Allen the chance to explore another of his talents – acting.

It combined well with his fashion skills, upped the ante on his celebrity status and eventually landed him a role on a popular reality series broadcast by a South African streaming service.

The increased exposure taught him invaluable lessons in defending his design artistry while working with a diverse clientele.

Staying true to his design artistry has helped Allen work with diverse clients. Photo: 19.kulture 

“It is important to always listen to your instincts and boldly take on the risks that come with that,” he says. “Working in fashion has led me to so many opportunities which I am grateful for. I’ve learned that as much as the client is always right, it is important to trust yourself and not let anyone take advantage of your art.”

Allen maintains that this mindset has helped him stay inspired especially in his fashion career.

“I want to create fashion that can cheer someone up when they are feeling sad; fashion that gives someone the courage to push on,” he says. “That, and the hope to one day have my outfits available to everyone, is my biggest source of inspiration.”

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TRT Afrika