Fashion store owner on recovering from the Westgate mall attack

But it was not until after her third baby that necessity – in the form of school fees – pushed Messeguer to fully dive into business. She opened a showroom in her house which attracted a good number of clients.

“I was afraid to pay rent but I realised that people were coming. So I opened a shop in Karen (upmarket estate in Nairobi). That was a big risk but it turned out to be very successful. People would come from across town to see the nice, small shop selling things from Barcelona. Everyone was saying: ‘I am going to Angie.’ It became very popular.”


When The Junction Mall was near completion, officials from leasing manager Knight Frank approached Messeguer.

“When I saw the rent figures I said: ‘No, I will never take such a big risk.’ I thought about it for a while and decided to take the risk. Again, people kept coming and the store became very successful.”

Messeguer attributes the demand for high-end fashion in Nairobi to the expanding middle and upper classes. The numerous social events at embassies and leading hotels are also good opportunities for people to dress up. Her stores are visited by a few expatriates but her main clientele are mostly Africans. Messeguer says she wants to widen her market by stocking outfits that are “not out of budget” for most shoppers.

Although more shopping malls are opening, Messeguer says Nairobi’s infamous traffic snarl-ups pose a big challenge as shoppers put off window shopping to avoid getting caught in traffic.

“Traffic is a big, big handicap,” Messeguer says, adding that this may hamper plans to open more Kache By Angie stores as it would make management very difficult.

“The run up and down when you… really want to put your personal touch [in every store] is very difficult. I think it is better to grow and just be focused. Honestly, after Westgate, part of my energy is gone.”

A taste for quality

Messeguer explains that in Kenya there “are lots of opportunities and consumers are open to new things”. Parents are also investing in their children’s education and young people have a taste for quality.

“The Kenya that I found when I came here 16 years ago was of cafés at some corner with plastic cups and customers who didn’t care. Today, people go to Dormans or Java (leading coffee shop brands) and they expect quality. I have seen the development of taste. I see people complain when they don’t get what they asked for or the quality they expected.”

Entrepreneurs, she says, stand to succeed if they seize the opportunities.

“There is only one secret: work hard. Nothing comes for free. You just have to do your part.”

The road to recovery

According to Messeguer, her biggest hurdle now is to recover from the Westgate mall attack. Although business improved during the December holiday season, things have slowed down again and rents have gone up by 10%. Nonetheless, Messeguer says when Westgate reopens she might open her store at the mall.

She explains that violence can happen anywhere in the world and people should not let an attack “paralyse” their lives.

“At first I thought of the pain and loss, but… I realised that if we stop business we make the [terrorists] proud because they will have accomplished their goal. [Our] will is to start again, rebuild, stand up and prove that violence is not going to stop this country, our business or our freedom.”