Collective Conversations... talking to designer and creative, Maleik Njoroge!

Maleik wears the Mdunao shirt in size M and the Habari shorts in size M (restocked tomorrow)

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the beauty of our diverse community. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing people around us and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do.

Maleik wears the MMVCE tee in size M

Maleik Njoroge is a lover. Using experimental design to tell nuanced stories of human imagination, Maleik's journey is, at its centre, one simply in pursuit of meaningful, beautifully-made things. A designer, creative director and innovator, Maleik is the developer behind the world's first-ever 'Chess Dhurrie Set'. 

For this edition of Collective Conversations, we stepped into Maleik's light-filled world. Moving in and out of the dappled sun, we learnt about life-changing jazz, wabi-sabi philosophy and the importance of being present.

Follow Maleik here or visit the All Tribes Are Beautiful website here.

Maleik wears the MMVCE tee in size M, the Collective Closets x Radical Yes: North Star Bag, the Habari shorts in size M (restocked tomorrow)

Describe yourselves in three words?

LOVE(r), Seeker, I AM.

Why is music such an important medium in your life?

I have found music to be a constant companion in my life. Almost like a soundtrack, music has scored key moments of my life in celebration or struggle. Like Fela Kuti would say, “Music is the Weapon”.

It's powerful enough to inspire and at its best, create transcendental experiences. I've also been fortunate to have amazing friends who are musicians that shared their love of music with me. 

Maleik wears the Mdunao shirt in size M, the Blue + White Shuka cushion

How do you express your creative identity?

I’m still learning this. I’m lucky to be surrounded (physically and through the internet) by amazing creatives who have inspired me to experiment with my own expression. Photography was my first love and although I don't take as many pictures as I once did, I find myself more in front of the lenses of amazing photographers working on really cool projects.

I also have a design lab (All Tribes Are Beautiful) ATAB.Lab which is an experimental space. We're currently focusing on curating and telling unique chess narratives to products and experiences.

What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward?

Letting go of fear so that I can see the world around me with fresh eyes.

The Mdunao shirt in size M

How does music contribute to your sense of self?

Music creates a space for me to let go of who I think I am and allow me to dream and imagine new ways of being.

What’s a hard lesson that you were grateful to learn?

 “Being Present”. I used to see life as a race to some unknown destination, needing to tick boxes and acquire accolades along the way. Kinda like Super Mario where instead of mushrooms, power up stars and all the mazes, replace them with a good education, career, relationships, avoiding sickness, losing friends etc.

This approach made me feel like I was losing the game of life. There were always comparisons to either how good things were (or not) in the past and chasing future achievements. But through mindfulness and meditation, I found out about the power of the Present Moment.

I became no longer a victim of my own life and was able to take stock of the steps that had led me to where I was without judgement. This filled me with great peace and gratitude (even for the worst things that had happened). This also freed me from the fear of the future and allowed me to understand that when the future arrives, it will also be a part of NOW and my present journey.

I don’t need to know or have everything. By being gentle with myself, I was able to be gentle with others. This wasn’t easy but has been a life-changing lesson that has many chapters to teach me as I grow and experience the world unfold.

Maleik wears the Mdunao shirt in size M and the Habari shorts in size M (restocked tomorrow)

What relationships are you grateful for?

I am grateful for all relationships that I have been blessed with. I often am amazed to see how little I had to do in establishing the initial connections that have formed into relationships. By sheer luck or grace, I just happened to be at the right space and time to catch someone's eye, or share a conversation or familial bond.

This little passage from one of my favourite books on beauty (in this case, connection/relationships) captures it best.

"Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty (relationship) is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something (someone) else. Beauty (connection) can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”

I try to honour and nurture these connections so in our union, we are both transformed and made better for knowing each other.

How would you style a look from the Songa Pamoja collection?

I love the Mdunao shirt! I'm a sucker for vibrant prints and love the story being told through the special Senegalese batik technique and execution on this piece. I used to wear a lot of suits in the past and sometimes miss getting dressed up.

The Mdunao with its generous camp collar allows me to rock a suit in a more gentle, relaxed way. This will be on heavy rotation.

Maleik wears the Mdunao shirt in size M

Do you have a happy memory you associate with a particular song? ​

I remember the first time I heard the mystical jazz song, “Turiya and Ramakrishna” by Alice Coltrane (aka Swamini Turiyasangitananda). It's one of the most sublime and beautiful songs that without words, took me to a place I’d never been. It was almost like an out of body experience.

I think this was the first time I heard music and closed my eyes and saw vivid colours. I was transported to another world that was within me. I still get shivers when I hear it to this day.

Is there a particular song that has become a mantra to your life?

Sita Ram - from the Ram Das Going Home soundtrack. This is both a song and mantra. Not much I can say about this but, "Jai Seetaaraam, Omm Shree Ram, Jai Raam, Jai Jai Raam Omm Shree Ram Jai Raam Jai Jai Raam Jai Jai Raam Jai Seeyaaraam, Seetaaraam Seetaraam”.