Reports on reactions of Kenyans to the 2004 quest designs say that the foundation dress was rejected on grounds that it lacked a Kenyan identity. FYI, its looking like the west African style of dress was purely coincidental. The source of the idea was very much Kenyan since it came from the wrapping style in which a majority if not all communities wear the leso (in the one piece or two piece style), with the inclusion of the t-shirt that those who have issues about body exposure usually wear beneath the wraps.
What those who complained about the design didn't take into consideration was that for the outfit to be acceptable to all, there were other factors that the design team needed to take into consideration besides fair representation of the diverse cultures into the one outfit .These are:-
The outfit also needed to be to a standard of modesty acceptable to all, and with modesty(decency) being an issue that is equally controversial in Kenya ( especially with regards to women's dressing), attempting to fit diverse standards of appropriate dressing in one outfit would have been even more difficult than the task of fitting the diverse cultural expressions into it.
For this reason, the design team presented the concept in its most decent form, then gave people the option of making reductions to the pattern, as seen in the suggestion to the youth that they had the option of wearing the skirt short /adopt it to their avant garde tastes.
Being stylish and classy was another thing that people required of the outfit, especially the Kenyans who wanted to wear it for recognition as Kenyans while hobnobbing internationally.The wrap and t shirt presented in that form would have been rejected by majority for lacking style.
It is for this reason that the design team modernized the wrap and t-shirt, combining it into the short sleeved blouse they ended up with.
The cost of the dress was another thing that was made an issue of.The choice of the kikoy was also made for the sake of style . (The idea had been to make use of what we are known for, which meant using the known textiles.These are the Kanga, kikoy and Maasai shuka. The kanga in the wrap style would not have looked stylish to many Kenyans, The shuka with its checks would have been too limiting, so that is why the kikoy became the fabric to "Enhance the costumes Kenyanness)."
The concepts weren't completely rejected .Some Kenyans didn't like the foundation dress design but they didn't mind the accessories proposed, so they wore them over their western fashions.This however led to the public opinion that the quest had yielded accessories, not outfits.
The reality is that all that needed to be done to the foundation dress design in order to "make it work" ( for style as well as Kenyan identity) was for people to do what they had been avoiding in the first place :-
-Accept the inclusion of the specific ways in which the kanga is tied by the different ethnic groups (Bantu,Cushite,Nilote) as basis of for styles for the tops worn with the wrap skirt.
-Wear these, as well as the initial wrap in the immodest (shoulder baring) style.
Those who needed to cover up for modest could have done so by wearing shawls or by going back to wearing t shirts/shirts underneath the sleeveless tops.
In my opinion if what Kenyans are looking for in a national dress is an outfit that they can identify with culturally, that transcends the diversity of the different cultural groups, that allows flexibility in fabric used for different social classes /functions, that can be adopted to different fashions for different age groups/different functions, they should not look further since we already have it all in the 2004 quest designs.
Furthermore, with the ethnic styles of wearing the kanga included in the styles for the foundation top, the concepts can be styled by people in ways that come from their tribes (if sticking to their own is what they want) but it will still be one thing to all of us.