Mutani’s Pocket honors and uplifts East African artists and fashion designers by creating a pipeline for their goods to be showcased and sold in the United States.
Mutani’s Pocket’s online store features unique jewelry, purses and bags, and clothing collections, making this marketplace great for a variety of customers. The store works with several up and coming, and experienced designers from East Africa, including Fridah, a fashion designer and dress etiquette coach from Mount Kenya. Fridah designs beautiful facemasks and pillow covers for Mutani’s Pocket home decor line.
Since the start of 2022, Mutani’s Pocket has hosted pop-up events throughout Washington, DC, where customers purchase their favorite Mutani’s Pocket products in person. Most recently, Mutani’s Pocket hosted a pop-up shop at Union Market where they sold bags and pieces from their new, comfortable-wear hoodie line. Founder Simone Smillie continues to be hands-on while running her business, and you can find her selling products behind her booth at all Mutani’s Pocket events.
Smillie launched the marketplace in DC last August 2020 after a friend brought her fabrics and artworks from street vendors of Kenya. Smillie was immediately entranced by the artists’ and designers’ bold patterns and bright colors. Despite the time zone difference, she began creating relationships with vendors in Kenya and throughout East Africa to sell their works through Mutani’s Pocket.
In their mission statement, Mutani’s Pocket aims to “give visibility to products created by artisans in micro supply chains in East Africa.” They added, “Our platform showcases their talents and thus highlights ‘traditional’ yet ‘modern’ East African fashion and art.”
Mutani comes from the Swahili word mtaani which means street. Mutani’s Pocket translates to street pocket because Smillie’s goal is to work with street vendors from all different pockets of East Africa.
Washington, DC is a growing hub for immigrants from Africa. DC’s African immigrant population grew from 9,500 to 14,800, showing an increase of 56 percent between 2000 and 2016.
As African culture continues enriching DC, Smillie strives to celebrate the cultural diversity of Africans from throughout their diaspora. By connecting East African art to Africans and Americans, Smillie implores her customers to learn and appreciate the artistic achievements and ideas of creators from around the world.