The night was off to a lousy start from the beginning. It wasn’t the sort of night you’d remember when you are old and graying and your grandchildren are holding your hand and studying the wrinkles on the back of it with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. She was supposed to have worn a devastating dress and high heels that made her rise above her 5’1’. Instead, Ogake Mosomi was in an uninspiring black dress that you wouldn’t have worn to the funeral of your enemy and flat ballerina shoes that she seemed to sink into like a fetid pond. On her head was a wig she’d thrown on on her way out of the door to hide the state of her hair. It sat on her head like a reluctant hen would sit on eggs that didn’t belong to her. She felt as sexy as a cactus.
The plan had been to go out with her girls and drink, dance, be young and frivolous and spontaneous but then someone – not naming names – had been late and their plans went up in smoke. “It was me, my friend Beryl, my cousin, and her friend.” She felt like she was going to see a dentist when they showed up at Rafiki’s bar on Langata Road. This was back in 2010. She was just back from the UK after being gone for eight years. She hadn’t even started her business.. But underneath that hideous wig she had thousands of sketches, ideas and dreams that would immortalise brides forever.
It was a Friday and Rafiki’s was full. It pulsated and throbbed, bobbing and stretching like an old ship. She and her girls pushed their way through the clogged sea of humanity surrounding them, squeezing sideways, trying not to touch anyone and finally securing a seat at the very back. They sat in that din of debauchery, floating in the loud music like broken twigs down a swollen river. It was someone’s birthday a few tables away – a girl in a dress Ogake should have been in. The bar was hot and clammy. She felt her face melt. She slunked further into her seat, half irritated, half thinking about her bed. When her cold Smirnoff Ice arrived she held it against her cheek and sighed.
At some point Beryl – who had been her roommate in high school – started making fun of her wig, monkeying about, yanking it off her head. Somehow friends of friends started joining their corner, people she didn’t know, people who were all dressed better than she was. She sipped her drink from the bottle and looked around, as if for the fire exit.
She doesn’t remember whose friend he was, who invited him. She doesn’t remember when he showed up. Suddenly he was there; like dawn. She remembers looking at him and thinking, ‘this guy is wearing all white to Rafiki’s.” He had on a white shirt, white pants and white shoes. Like Puff Daddy in the 90s. He stood tall, holding his drink, knowing that he was cool. “He was tall, light-skinned and handsome,” but she wasn’t attracted to light-skinned men, not that it mattered in that wig. She clung to her Smirnoff Ice. They must have talked briefly. He said his name was Ben. He didn’t look anything like a Ben. Bens didn’t wear all white. Most Bens spend 30 minutes looking for their socks. She doesn’t remember their conversation . She went home at the end of the evening and relieved herself off her wig. Then she slept.
Seven years later, when she had become a designer, the man in white started appearing on her radar. (He didn’t start appearing because she was a designer, though). They’d run into each other at events or with people they both knew. Then they started hanging out. He was a doctor. He still loved white. Still loved manscaping. “You’d pick him out in a crowd,” she says. “Apart from his sharp dressing, he had alternative views, was very decisive, warm and didn’t mince his words.” They started dating and they did that for two years. On July 10th he took her to Nanyuki for her birthday; a romantic bush dinner. He was in white. Again. [My editor’s comment here; ‘huyu daktari anavaa white kwa bungu?Ha-ha]
“After the waiter had finished pouring my champagne, I turned around with a flute in my hand and there he was down on one knee, in his white pants.” She trills. He was saying something, rather his mouth was moving but she doesn’t remember a word he said. Maybe he was saying, ‘does bubbly tickle your nose?” Or, “Do you think Rhinos will be extinct in ten years?” whatever it was, he seemed satisfied with the answer she gave; yes.
The wedding is set for 20th September.
But first she has to design her own wedding gown. How does a luxury gown designer design her own wedding gown? Someone who never fantasized about being in a white wedding gown. What she knows for now is that it’s not going to be ‘vanilla’. Every day she sits down and draws sketches. She wants a dress that isn’t just smashing in terms of design, but also one that tells a story. Her story. Their story. A story of love, that can be shared by themselves intimately, and by their loved ones. She is asking questions as she sketches; what does a wedding gown mean that isn’t the cliche ‘purity’? What does it say about what I want, how I will see the marriage? How can it privately speak to what’s in my heart while also saying something intimate to the person looking at me? How can I share it with many but still be able to enjoy it alone? What is that dress that represents the best version of yourself but isn’t also too pretentious to ignore your warts? To mean she’s asking pretty much the same questions she asks herself whenever she sits down to design wedding gowns for clients, only this time she has to dig deeper into herself.
Wedding gowns are an irony; they are a culmination of months – even years – dream and romanticism. Then they come alive on this one day which will be immortalised in videos and cameras but not just as a dress but a special moment, like birth – or even death, some might say. Then it will be hung in a closet, a memory catcher. So every day she sits down and she sketches it. “Sketching a wedding gown is sketching a love story.”
Ogake Mosomi – is a member of the Visa’s Small Business Hub that supports small businesses. If you want to be a part of that check this out.