David Mbiyu escapes into fashion world


Jamal Beckford

Mbiyu behind the scenes of his first Grape Escape photoshoot.

Grace Kelly, News Editor

On Apr. 1, junior David Mbiyu (pronounced M-B-U) presented his fashion brand Grape Escape at For the Culture’s local art festival First Friday, just one week after dropping the release.


Mbiyu’s inspiration predominantly sparked from the style and work of Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Tyler, the Creator, and Odd Future as a whole. He credits them with carving a path for him and other kids like him.

However, he currently does everything himself, from the design, the photography and overall running of the website to the production and shipping of products. The majority of the process is done from his bedroom.

“It’s not part of my life,” he says. “It is my life.”

Mbiyu’s journey was far from easy. He grew up as a first-generation immigrant with a Kenyan mother and one younger brother. Clothes affected him even in his youth, a time when he was bullied for them and did not have access to the clothes he truly wanted.

“One day during freshman year, I woke up and knew what I was here to do,” Mbiyu says. “My goal was to make a billion dollars to give my family the life they deserve, and be great so those after me have a shot.”
However, at the time, he didn’t know exactly how he would achieve this. Now, he has a start.

Living in East Las Vegas, Mbiyu attended Chaparral High School where he took part in the photography program, although classes were online and not as immersive as he’d hoped.

He later applied to Silverado’s CTE program in order to take the graphic design classes offered here.
Waking up at 4:30 a.m. sharp, he takes multiple buses each day just to come to school and back, as well as fitting his current job into this fixed schedule. He struggled to keep his motivation while the project was still under wraps.

“Walking in the cold every morning in fall hours before the sun would rise and being told I’ll never make it was rough,” he says. “But the sun came up, and [the brand is] released.”

Early on, around May 2020, he began exploring logo designs through different free online generators just to see his vision physically, but he knew he had to create his own to be up to the level he truly envisioned.

Throughout that summer, he delved into different aspects of this idea, researching things like how to package and ship, and he gained further clothing inspiration from brands like Golf Wang, a brand he has looked up to since middle school.

So where does the name come from?

It originally came from a playlist he made when the artists he listened to at the time became more and more impactful to his vision.

“I feel like the name doesn’t always have to be super deep and serious,” he says. “It’s just fun. It has meaning to me, and that’s what matters.”

In 2021, things started to get serious.

“On New Year’s Day, I knew the year was going to be all planning,” he says. “I had to complete the basics like getting my permit and a job to set the foundation for 2022.”

A month after his 16th birthday, and after a lot of persistence, he started working at Zumiez, attributing it as an opportunity to learn more about the quality of clothes and the opinions of different customers on a variety of pieces, including what they do and don’t like about them.

“I used to think the different brands’ designs were cool,” Mbiyu says. “Then I started noticing how cheap the materials they used were and how overpriced they make it. It’s all fast fashion. That’s why I notice little details all the way to the tags. I strive to make things that last.”

When speaking further about trends, he has a similar viewpoint.

“I try to go the opposite direction from what current trends are,” he says. “One idea I had was fully scrapped after I ordered all the materials just because it was too similar to things that are being done now. It was too much of a trend hopper design.”

Though he originally planned to sell shirts at school during his sophomore year, he says that quarantine was a “blessing in disguise” for him and a time for him to dream big. Even then, Mbiyu had to save relentlessly throughout the year for what he would eventually be spending thousands of dollars on.
And he still had a big part of his life to worry about: school.

He started his junior year surrounded by new people and the loss of old friends.  He gained a new sense of awareness, style and self, however, and he walked into school with newly dyed hair every single month.

However, when starting the graphic design program earlier this school year, the computers were not fully set up, and the process to start it was excruciatingly slow for Mbiyu.

Mbiyu’s promotional photo for Grape Escape.
From left to right: Riley Dunseph, David Mbiyu, Carlos Perez, Stephanie Quezada Chiquito (David Mbiyu)

Though he later saved up for his own laptop to delve deeper into designing and finalizing the first releases, Mbiyu helped get the process started and finished by talking to multiple administrators.

“It made me feel like Spiderman, you know, to start a chain reaction bigger than myself and no one knowing,” he says. “I didn’t reap the benefits, but I slept better  knowing that other people now had access to those computers and could be inspired by those.”

Exactly one year later from New Year’s Day 2021, Mbiyu started off 2022 by going to For the Culture’s New Year’s event, where he reconnected with two people who later became models for his brand.

“It was time to start shaking hands with people and getting my face and name out there,” he says.

Many of Mbiyu’s designs for items, such as his skateboard grip tape, were still being perfected around this time and even up to their release, making him a self-admitted perfectionist when it comes to what he creates. He showed his models the shirts they’d be wearing the day of the photoshoot because he wanted the surprise to be revealed at the very last moment.

“I was happy they trusted my vision, whatever it could’ve been,” he says. “I’ll always make room for them in all of my projects because of what they did early on.”

On Mar. 24, Mbiyu’s 17th birthday, Grape Escape was officially released.

“I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stop looking at the clock,”  he said.

As he saw more people checking out his post and saw the orders on his website starting to roll in, he was ecstatic his hard work had paid off.

So what’s next for the creator after appearing at First Friday and here in the school paper?

“An interview is out on the Grape Escape Clothing YouTube channel, and I’m constantly perfecting future releases,” he says.

To keep up with Mbiyu and Grape Escape, visit the website