One On One With Jeff Wanjala Co-founder and CEO Of Wan Fam Clothing
Brief introduction about yourself and your fashion house
Name is Jeff Wanjala. I’m m the co-founder and CEO of Wan Fam Clothing
Can you describe Wan Fam Clothing, and the idea and concept as if I knew nothing about it
or the market it is in?
Wan Fam Clothing was founded by my brother, Mr. Emmanuel Wanjala and I in 2009 as when were were doing hand painted t shirts for client.
In 2011 Wan Fam Clothing was born and ventured into the fashion and apparel industry as a recent start-up manufacturer of an upscale urban fashion clothing line targeted at consumers between the ages of 16 and 35. Wan Fam Clothing not only develops the clothing line, but supports it with advertising and promotion campaigns.
Wan Fam Clothing markets its line as an alternative to existing clothing lines, and differentiate itself by marketing strategies, exclusiveness, and high brand awareness. The company uses high-end materials such as khaki, fleece, upholstery and twill. Current products include travel/gym bags, backpacks, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jackets, bags, and t-shirts both for men and women. Future plan includes business suits, children’s clothing, footwear and leather products.
The key message associated with the Wan Fam clothing line is upscale, local, versatile, and affordable clothing. In the future, the company hopes to develop lines of accessories for men, women, and also children.
What were you doing before Wan Fam Clothing, and what motivated you to start the
I was a student. I have a friend called Chif who used to make hand painted t shirts for me and other clients. In 2009 he got employed and put his t shirt business on hold. I asked him for some brushes and paint and since I knew my brother was good at graffiti and sketching so we thought we tried his talent on t shirts.
We were constraint on cash so we bought second hand branded t-shirts, covered the branded works with white paint and branded our artwork on that. We did few t-shirts, posted on Facebook and got 13 orders and we grew from there
What techniques do you use? Tell us about the process.
How did you learn/master this technique and why do you use it?
What challenges did you face?
The biggest setback for us has been fabric availability and capital. Sometimes you get really good fabric, you make the products and when you go back to get more, it’s no longer available. This goes hand in hand with the fact we lack capital just to buy enough fabric and stock it.
Another setback which goes hand in hand with lack of capital is the fact we have created more demand than what we can actually supply. Which to an entrepreneur it’s one of the greatest achievements but I count it as a setback because some clients get disappointed when they don’t find what they like ready-made.
As for now we tell people to Pre-order in case whatever they want no longer in stock but at times you get clients who need our stuff there and then. Either they want to wear it at a specific event or they are flying out. So despite having created demand I can call it a setback since you end up disappointing a client who really has passion for Wan Fam products.
How did the obstacles make you feel?
Definitely obstacles don’t create a good feeling but they helped me get better. They made us focus
in what we can do and not put energy on what we cannot.
It also helped us not flood the market
with our products but rather move at pace thus controlling what we give consumers and how we
give them and also focus on what the consumer wants from our products
What were your achievements?
a) We have managed to have sold out collections with the fastest selling in less than 48 hours.
b) Managed to catch the eye of Cable News Network (CNN) and got featured on their African
c) Managed to work with some influential people who I admire and my most notable one was
working with personality Pinky Ghelani. The whole process and support was amazing. From
doing a collection together to working on photo shoots together to exchanging ideas.
The moments mentioned above and every step of the way has been a step to
our goal and a learning experience thus every moment is what helps us get better and closer to
what we want to be and stand for.
What’s your take about Kenya fashion industry?
It still has a long way to go but it’s better than
where it was when we started. Most of our problems can be solved at the top national level then the effect will be felt positively by designers, manufacturers, labourers and consumers in the
If you were given opportunity to work with local or international fashion designer who will
you love to work with?
What are your thoughts on fashion in Africa?
It’s amazing. Everyone has their eye on Africa now. We have brands like Kate Spade having some of their products made in Rwanda, Michael Kors bags being made in Ethiopia, United Aryan Ltd making Levi’s and Wrangler in Kenya, Philips-Van Heusen via the local subsidiary Hela Intimates making Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger in Kenya..
The presence of big brands, just to name a few, in Africa is a sign that the African market is doing well at the moment with even bigger things in future.What we need are better policies which are not only written on paper but implemented on the ground that will see the market move in a direction where the designers, creatives and entrepreneurs in the industry get their share of the fashion pie.
How are African fashion designers influencing fashion in the western world?
We have seen designers leaving people in awe at the New York Fashion week and also designers like Gold Carvier Crew leaving a mark at Vienna Fashion week this year. We have also seen celebrities like Beyonce, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani just to name a few rocking African designs while performing or red carpet events.
We have seen the influence African fashion and culture had on the blockbuster film Black Panther etc. So African fashion designers are now getting noticed for their incredible work, unique designs and influence. No just because they are African but because of the signature pieces, quality of works and stories behind each thread
What can the African fashion industry learn from the western world?
The main thing, in my opinion, we can learn is setting up our products and services to those international standards already set and practiced by western world, This is in terms of the quality of raw materials, quality of finish products etc. Another thing we can learn from the western world is building of brands. Most designers are good at making the products but building brands around it becomes hard. We need to build African fashion brands. Brands create loyalty.
Having a brand name makes work easier in the long run, also creates a space where your work will speak for you not only now but in future. Designers should also learn about protection of intellectual property. Some designers put a lot of work on coming up with their name and products just for them to be counterfeited locally and internationally.
Lastly, Africa is a developing nation, thus we can learn what the developed countries did wrong and do things differently thus we don’t have the burden of having to experiment or focus so much on what doesn’t work but we can study the western world and pick only what works thus saving money, time and resources.
Over the last few years have you noticed any significant changes with the African fashion
Yes…there has been an increase in urban fashion brands with focus mainly on African made
products rather than making items in Asia or other countries and selling locally.
When dealing with Africa is it important for the fashion world to be ethical and socially
responsible, and put in place strong corporate social responsibility governance?
Yes. Especially in Africa.
Unlike in developed countries, most of Africa’s clothing industry relies on unskilled labour for its production. Meaning most of our seamstress and other labour workers don’t come from a a well-off family or fashion education to back her production abilities and this shows that the less fortunate are the backbone of the industry so it’s only right the African fashion industry gives back to these important people and this can be done via CSR which may include training, education, social causes etc
Where can we find your designs?
We are at Westlands Commercial Centre, Block B, Suite 3, You can contact us via +254705 818
84 or email@example.com We also do deliveries wherever you are
What does e-Commerce mean to you and your business?
E-commerce is a very important tool especially in fashion especially in this digital age. And like
many tools it can be a plus or minus for designers depending on how they adopt the wave into
Do you think e-commerce is important for African fashion designers that are trying to get
recognized and reach a global market?
It is important but not as important as it is made out to be. Africa designers have managed to create unique products using unique materials and even marketing them uniquely so I think we should also sell them uniquely than just follow what the western markets have done.
The e-commerce sites are popping up every week and also closing down or being neglected at almost
similar rate. E-commerce is an important tool but like every tool, it should be used correctly where
appropriate to produce the best results
How does your strategy change when running an online store to an offline store?
It changes because now you have all these different people from all over the globe that you need to server rather than a usual brick and mortar store where you server who you see and interact with. This means a lot will change since e-commerce can provide you with the information you need to curve your business’ future.
E commerce can provide info such as where most of your clients are, what they like, what colour or design they don’t like etc and this can help a designer know what to make in his or her next collections, what sizes to make more of and also understand his/her clientele in a different level.
This is something that a brick and mortar store will have limitations in. This information can help change how you make your item, how many items you make, your target and how to market. In turn this changes your whole strategy from design, marketing to even amending your business plan to fit with the market demand and supply
Where do you see African fashion in the next 5 to 10 years?
~ I’m sure I’ll see more fashion houses from Africa.
~ We’ll also see more designers being recognized in their works in terms of film costume designers, stylists etc.
~ Well also see more African fashion events being given international plat forms. Like the Lagos Fashion week, Dakar fashion week etc
~ I’m sure the future has international designers teaming up with African designers. We’ll see more clothing pieces being curated for African market than taking anything being given to us.
What 5 pieces of advice would you give to young African fashion designers wanting to enter
the fashion industry?
1. Patience – Overnight success doesn’t take a night
2. Know what you want from the word go. I know people who started with clothing lines who are now doing business cards, food etc because they didn’t know what they wanted when starting
3. Do what you love
4. Don’t compromise on quality
5. Make products, work and partnerships with the long-run mind set. Think of building a name rather than quick cash
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just want to thank our clients and everyone who has supported us: From the ones who own all our
collections in their closet, to those who set even a minute to visit our stand at events, to those who just show support online.
None of our achievements would have been possible without you and your unwavering support. There would be no Wan Fam (One Family) without you.
Content courtesy of Wan Fam Clothing & Nairobi fashion hub