“We all have a vision of what we want the future to be.”


Mugo Muna is spinning a philosophical background for his new clothing project, Bora Wear. Ensconced in a Nairobi apartment, battling a cold and a flickering Internet connection, Muna chats animatedly on topics ranging from his personal background to Bora Wear’s design process and the joyous struggle of creating something worthwhile. He’s fluent in the language of global entrepreneurship, thoughtfully articulating the symbiotic nature between great products and the economics of strong communities.


“The whole point of Bora Wear existing,” he recently told a Cornell publication, “as cliché as it sounds, is the mission of doing well and doing good – the idea of making high quality hand made goods in Kenya and having those goods have an impact on the local economy in a positive way.”


Bora Wear is an upcoming line of handmade belts crafted by local artisans in Kenya, many of whom base out of the sprawling slums of Kibera in Nairobi. Bora Wear puts a heavy emphasis on personal touch and intimate craftsmanship, creating brand-new molds for each belt buckle to ensure that the finished product is truly unique. Bora Wear’s belts are designed to blend the flair of the exotic with the comfort that comes with top-line quality, under girdled always by an unwavering commitment to social responsibility.


These are no assembly-line belts, mass-produced and lacking the spark of individual attention. “The belt has a soul to it,” says Muna.


The ground notes of tangible human passion that grace Bora Wear’s raison d’etre are fundamental to Mugo Muna’s worldview. Born in Ithaca, the son of a Cornell doctoral student who eventually joined Coca-Cola, Muna spent a good portion of his childhood living in Kenya. He returned to the United States as a teenager and attended Cornell University, where he spent some time switching majors before graduating with a degree in economics. Instead of sauntering along traditional, expected career paths such as consulting, Muna packed his bags and returned to Kenya in an effort to start something that meant something.


Muna freely acknowledges the somewhat predictable grandiosity of his youthful visions. After all, narratives of young people longing to make a tangible difference are not exactly rare. Muna’s first foray into fashion, crafting hand-stitched shirts with a group of HIV-positive seamstresses, was a disappointment. This second time around, he’s wiser and better prepared. Nowadays, he shies away from dramatic, declarative statements of higher purpose, favoring a subtler brand of social change propelled by an army of expert artisans crafting quality belts with a human touch.


Bora Wear is launching a Kickstarter campaign today aimed at raising nearly $17,000. Donors could be eligible for personalized postcards, hand-crafted belts of their choice and even an week in Kenya touring Bora Wear’s design and production facilities. Crowdfunding Bora Wear’s costs will allow the company to leverage a global audience already attuned to sincere, socially responsible products.


What, then, is Mugo Muna’s vision of how he wants the future to be? Simply put, he wants to “build something world-class in Kenya,” to “make something that can stand up.” The fortunes of Nairobi’s local artisans will go hand-in-hand with Bora Wear’s success, creating upwardly mobile social change in the process of crafting and marketing a great product. Muna has already endowed Bora Wear with sincerity and real human emotion. With luck and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Bora Wear could achieve something truly remarkable.


Interested in Bora Wear’s offerings? What do you think of Mugo Muna’s vision? Start the discussion in the comments below, connect with me on Twitter @aa_murph and don’t forget to check out Bora Wear’s Kickstarter page!