As she sashays her lanky frame into the room, it is hard to ignore Lynette Anderson’s striking beauty. At first, I am not able to make out that she is the one I have been waiting to meet. Her accomplishments thus far, as narrated to me by one of her friends, felt too wonky to be achieved within the 33 years she has been alive.
She is the nondescript gem of Kenya’s fashion industry; perhaps among top industry drivers whose real potential has remained hidden somewhere in the country’s fashion hall of fame.
“I have been in fashion almost for as long as I have lived,” says the managing director of Nairobi Fashion Market (NFM). “Somehow, I have actually lived it as my mother, Lila Barker, who owned Zaramu House of design.”
Her smile is genuine; her poise is perfect; and her green silhouette dress shimmers under the sun – it makes me wonder why she has never been a model.
But I could be wrong. “I was a model,” she says as if she possesses telekinetic mind-reading powers. “I was 18 when I began modelling actively. It’s something I loved doing even though at some point life became more robust and I had to opt out.”
Her love for the runway shone when she joined the race for Miss Universe Kenya in 2004, emerging the first runners up, beating hundreds of other contestants to be among the top. It was her first time at the edge of public prominence.
She might not be a connoisseur but her stealth – living and running fashion – can talk for itself without much assuaging.
“Fashion is the way you present yourself to the world. It’s a subtle art that has the power of conveying something about you and your views on life. I am the proprietor of NFM. I needed to create and grow my own art away from what I did at my mother’s business. I didn’t know how the market would receive it, but I was willing to try.”
Growing up in Nairobi, it never occurred to her that she would one day be a managing director in the fashion industry. She actually loved biology and chemistry while studying at State House Girls High School.
She would later enroll at United States International University for a degree in International Business Administration. It was around the same time that she became a model. Raised through modest upbringing, Lynette would later apply for jobs and experience the familiar turmoil unbeknown to many college graduates.
“I had applied for several positions in different places. But as time went by, I began experiencing a change of heart. My intuition told me I wanted to be my own boss — dictate my own terms of work. However, I was taken in by Alison production company, working as an administrator and personal assistant to the CEO,” she says.
As a teen, Lynette felt she would join the world of science and medicine — but boy, was she wrong! The succinct incarnating affair she had with Biology and Chemistry would soon wear off as the work of her marketer father and designer mother, proved too emotive to ignore.
“I did beadwork and created lampshades and styled cushions while working with my mother. My father was a marketing executive and he seemed to enjoy what he did. That must have influenced my choice to do a business course at the university,” she says.
But even after graduating, Lynette would develop a real hankering for fashion and design. She would quit her job at Alison and join her mother’s fashion ensemble. She admits it wasn’t easy thriving under her mother’s wings.
She would later meet buyers from abroad who showed interest in her products. “It was then that I realized there are designers and creative artistes in Kenya who are not able to sell what they make because they don’t have leads to buyers. I immediately began thinking of concepts, which marked the birth of NFM,” she smiles wryly.
Caught in the riptide of fashion and the allure of art, Lynette had to make it work. NFM wasn’t that successful in its first months, she admits, but that emboldened her spirit more as she searched for ways to firmly put the business on the ground.
“There were so many odds,” she says. “We couldn’t afford an office. Together with a few friends, I worked from home, piecing together the concept and hoping that the best will emerge from the hard work.”
And it did, as NFM’s fame spread through, slowly percolating the lukewarm fashion market in Nairobi. Today, she works with Kenya’s top designers and fashion managers like Kiko Romeo.
Lynette’s skin is a blend of contrasts with a perfect mellow glow. Her hair — which I learn is entirely natural — cascades down her back with the grace of a waterfall.
“What is the magic combination; is there a secret to that skin?” I can’t resist but ask.
“Nothing much really,” she replies demurely. “I exercise once in a while, I do yoga once every often, eat right and drink lots of water. Apart from that, there’s nothing else but genes.”
It’s not that cryptically hidden. She evidently is a phenotypic grandiose. On further probe, it turns out, Lynette is multiracial; her father, Mike Anderson, is a Scottish-Kenyan. Her mother converges Tanzanian, Seychelles, New Zealand and Luhya genes.
But there are greater things to learn from Lynette; for instance, starting small leads people into a world of possibilities. “Fashion won’t die! It’s part of our lives. When I brought NRM to life, not so many felt its essence to Kenya’s fashion industry but now they do,” she says.
The day she left the gates of USIU to start her life as an adult are still surreal in her mind. However, she relishes every moment she trusted her instinct as she delved deeper into the passion that fashion is for her. Her next stop will be the Ngong’ Racecourse on March 8.