The Textile and Fashion Value Chains Conversation looking at Opportunities in Kenya’s Private Sector happened on 25th March 2021 online. The African Development Bank, iMC Worldwide and Fashionomics Africa supported it.
Emmanuela Gregorio from African Development Bank opened the session and Jacqueline Shaw from Africa Fashion Guide moderated the event. The panellists included Oscar Alochi (Nairobi Fashion Hub), Jason Musyoka (Viktoria Ventures), Chebet Mutai (Waziwazi), Olivia Awuour (Pine Kazi) and Akinyi Odongo.
Emmanuela Gregorio: This event seeks to understand how businesses have positioned themselves in the fashion market. Consumer trends and country reports with detailed information that can be used by investors.
Plus, looking at the environmental and social impact,e.g. It takes 2.7 litres of water to manufacture a cotton t-shirt. Lastly, Kenyan is a growing fashion sector in Africa, and the garment industry is a promising investment.
Oscar Alochi: The 1960s – 1980s was very successful at marketing clothes for local use & export. It was impacted negatively by the entrance of second-hand clothes. The Kenyan textile and fashion market has been negatively affected by high production costs, including raw materials and marketing issues.
What’s the best way to bring back the Kenyan fashion textile industry?
Chebet Mutai: The private sector needs to work hand in hand with the government through fashion policies. The local consumption and creation by Kenyans are creating a grassroots momentum. That’s pushing the Buy Kenya, Build Kenya ecosystem. Take advantage of AGOA and focus on preferential trade agreements to access international/American markets.
How can we improve locally made fashion?
Chebet Mutai: Have a good brand story because consumers are becoming highly conscious. A strong brand story needs to weave into the marketing strategy. Adopt new technology, push the made in Africa brand and think about how to penetrate new markets.
Jacqueline Shaw: Many eyes are on the African continent, so Africans need to grab this opportunity by telling their own stories. You don’t want Kenya to be known only as an artisan-driven fashion place, yet there’s also knitting, basket weaving, leather shoes, like a strong leather industry.
Kenyan can be known for high-class quality and luxury items. So people can buy from us and not just admire us.
How did you start Waziwazi, a luxury leather business? Can Kenya be a leading luxury leather import on the content?
Chebet Mutai: You need to have the design conversation, who do I want to sell this product to… its quality lifts the product from this jurisdiction to the next. A commitment to a design-driven process centred on what the customer wants.
What is being done to improve the textile industry in Kenya?
Chebet Mutai: A lot is being done to improve the fashion textile industry. Some people already use local cotton and breed silkworm. The fashion line is more on an international level but, there’s an opportunity in other things like bedsheets. KEBS care about standardization.
Olivia Awuour: Green Nettle has sustainable textiles made from stinging nettle and they have won a fashion award.
Akinyi Odongo: We need to engage with farmers to grow organic content and upcycling mitumba pieces into fashion designs. It includes training students to look into sustainable fashion because that’s where the future is. We need to impart skills that will outlive us.
Are there Copyright Issues in the Textile and Fashion Value Chains?
Chebet Mutai: A particular designer copied one of my designs. So as designers, you need to have legal ownership of fashion products, copyright and trademark. Don’t walk away from people that infringe on your rights. You can go to KIPI for more information.
What are the finances like in the Textile and Fashion Scene?
Jason Musyoka: The more we understand the value chain, the more we can see opportunities. Blended finance can fund the creative sector.
Chebet Mutai: People are wary of sending money from abroad. Paypal is good for abroad buyers. The best way to do it is to integrate it on the site. It’s not fair that it’s easy to purchase products abroad. Yet, it’s hard for others to buy products from Kenyan designers.
What skills do you need to export fashion products?
Chebet Mutai: Making sure that the product you have is what the market wants. It needs good value and, that’s why the brand story really matters. There needs to be more guidance because you take time trying to figure things out.
What are the opportunities in the retail sector, the local market? The domestic consumer market in Kenya? Do you have an idea?
Oscar Alochi: It isn’t easy knowing estimating Kenyans using local luxury brands, but the numbers are still rising.
Chebet Mutai: You can access duty-free items if you can prove that your textile can’t be sourced locally as a fashion designer. Designers need to walk into spaces and take part in conversations and keep pushing for opportunities. Understand terms of trade that apply to countries and utilise KEPROBA.
Hilda Ogada: KEBROBA is a product development initiative. It handholds SMEs to make sure that their products meet the international guidelines. So, any exporter can easily access information about any documentation that they need.
Anne Wamae: We’re waiting for guidance to implement fashion policies.
Ann McCreath: There’s huge potential in the Kenyan fashion industry around alternative fashion textiles. Quality textiles with high-quality designs and correct branding plus transparency and storytelling. The price goes up and, everyone benefits in the value chain.
New designers should start small and think through designs and experiment since it’s a difficult time. It’s always a rollercoaster. Always be ready to adapt, apply for all training opportunities and learn from as many people as possible.
Closing Remarks about the Textile and Fashion Value Chain in Kenya
Emmanuela Gregorio: Kenya has an ecosystem that the government is working with so things can thrive. It’s important to have high-quality garments, look and feel, understand the market, pricing and market intelligence. Fashionomics wants to put its masterclasses online, better online payment systems, the importance of producing fashion sustainably.