Meet The Black Designer Behind The Viral Kylie Jenner Dress

The MaryAnn Msengi brand was launched this summer but is already aiming high.

If you’ve been browsing Instagram this summertime, you’ve probably met someone wearing a short, abstract art Farai London cutout dress. The brand’s signature dresses have been seen on everyone from Kylie Jenner to rapper Mulatto to a host of fashion enthusiasts. The dress became the main “it girl” thing almost overnight, almost literally. Farai London was officially launched in July 2020.

For most designers, especially black designers, a brand’s growth and exposure can take time, but MaryAnn Msengi, the black designer behind the London-based brand, has experienced a whirlwind in her first official month. In her first and only month in business, Kylie Jenner wore her signature dress, called Gaia, and of course, she photographed it for Instagram. MaryAnn said that she “never expected the reception” she received and couldn’t believe the huge support she received after the stars started wearing her designs in the series. But it is obvious that the world saw something in her creations.

“I’ve always been obsessed with fashion, there isn’t a single episode of Project Runway that I haven’t seen,” MaryAnn says of her start-up in the business. In July, she launched Farai London, aiming to redefine women’s fashion. From bold prints to unique silhouettes, MaryAnn is onto something with her design. The brightly colored halter mini dress was one of the brand’s favorites even before Kylie wore it. Of course, her influence was focused on Farai London and introduced a new audience to the brand, but the dress gained popularity on Instagram as the birthday dress of choice for many women. MaryAnn admits that Gaia is her “favorite child” because she calls her designs her children. The dress comes in three colors: black, canary yellow with blue and multi-colored accents (the kind Kylie wore, including bright yellow, blue, and green).

“All of my clients look so good in the dress, and when I hear how confident women feel, I feel like it’s mission accomplished,” MaryAnn says. Confidence definitely shows. Quickly scroll through tagged photos of Farai London on Instagram and hundreds of pictures of women posing in confident appearance, showing off their Gaia dresses on their birthdays, holidays, and even at home. Seeing Farai London worn like a seaside resort doesn’t surprise MaryAnn, as travel inspires her as a designer. “I love to travel, so [when designing] I can imagine where I want to go and what I would like to take there,” she said.

While the colorful dress could scream vacation inspiration and gorgeous necklines would entice anyone to fly, MaryAnn wanted to create something sexy and reminiscent of the early 2000s. Always obsessed with the styles of the early 2000s and the music video vixen of that time,” she said. She wanted this to be particularlspecifically reflected in the design of Gaia’s dress. Video Vixens were the “it girls” of the 2000s, from their natural bodies to the hairstyles they wore and the clothes they wore, or the lack of it. MaryAnn’s vision of creating something familiar with nostalgia at the time is in effect.

When designing her now-famous Gaia dress, MaryAnn imagined herself in one of her favorite destinations: Montego Bay, Jamaica. MaryAnn doesn’t just design clothes for women. She actually enjoys designing swimwear, which makes sense, given her passion for travel. With the travel restrictions of COVID-19, she has decided to keep parts of the swim pieces from the collection for next year.

Although she had to put many swimsuits on hold, the women’s clothes are taken off in front of her eyes. MaryAnn wants Farai London to be remembered as a ‘loud fashion that turns heads,’ and she achieves that in no time with the rate she is going. She admits that it seems like “it’s a lot harder to be taken seriously as a black designer because there is so much pressure to be good from start to finish.” With the community, she has already established and the fashion industry’s evolution, it is clear that MaryAnn is on the right track to achieving her goal.



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