Uneven demand leaves Kenyan fashion designers dry

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Garment industry specialist Rajeev Arora, Kenya Fashion Council Chairman Akinyi Odongo and Presidential Advisor for SMEs Anne Mutahi at the launch of Fashion DNA Kenya’s Needs Analysis Report in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

A new report has dissected Kenya’s fashion industry, citing problems with the pricing and cost of local products as one of the reasons foreign clothing brands are thriving in the country.

The British Council’s report, Fashion DNA: Kenya Needs Analysis, says retailers and fashion designers in Kenya lack expert advice.

According to the report released last week in Nairobi, this continues to limit their growth and opportunities to innovate.

The report further mentions the limitations of pricing and costing skills and how to market and brand as some of the challenges negatively affecting the interactions between retailers and fashion designers.

This, according to the report, is a sign that the industry needs support.

“These challenges create new opportunities for international retailers to enter the Kenyan fashion ecosystem and thrive,” the report said.

Results were collected between October 2019 and February 2020 with additional research conducted in April 2020.

The report describes the country’s fashion industry as “messy and unstructured”.

He is also “uninformed and uncommunicative”. This explains why respondents described the Kenyan fashion scene as complex and somewhat convoluted, difficult to understand and satisfy.

They also stated that there was a preference for western-style clothing among the urban population. Such gaps provide international brands with opportunities that they maximize.

Textile interns at the NYS headquarters in Nairobi, May 29, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

One such shortcoming, which the report says is major compared to other countries, is that Kenya has no definitive national attrition.

“Global fashion trends are accelerating rapidly in the local market, and there is no traditional Kenyan dress or style of dress as there is in most South African Community countries. East such as Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda,” the report read.

Moreover, the rural market also seems disinterested or indifferent to anything that is produced locally.

The report says that despite textile operations that could supply designers (with 17 textile factories operational as of June 2019, according to available government data), Kenya’s fashion and apparel industry has yet to make its mark. in the global market compared to others. developing countries like Ethiopia and Vietnam.

“Among the reasons for the status quo, textile mills rely on older technologies and suffer from low levels of skilled labor, low productivity and at the same time incur maintenance costs and overheads. high generals due to old equipment,” the report said.

He further notes that the global fashion industry provides a vast opportunity for developing countries such as Kenya as a sourcing destination. “Kenya’s textile and apparel industry is estimated to contribute 0.6% of gross domestic product and 6% of the entire manufacturing sector,” the report said.

Companies, according to the report, are still adopting a wait-and-see attitude despite Rivatex’s 2019 relaunch by the government, which offers many opportunities for the industry. The report also revealed that local designers have been forced to use high-cost imported textiles or low-quality local fibers that require additional processing.

“Additionally, the leather industry for fashion products and accessories faces similar challenges,” the report said.

While a majority of local designers are involved in garment production, with the country having around 70,000 garment manufacturing companies, the majority of these are small-scale and often not full-time operations. Others are unregistered entities.

Bales of second-hand clothes in a container in Gikomba Market, Nairobi. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

These challenges are punctuated by the fact that the country’s clothing industry is largely second-hand, thanks to mitumba – which are second-hand clothes, some of which are designer clothes, imported from abroad.

The report notes that second-hand clothes in the country are enjoying popularity and preference due to their affordability, wide variety, quality clothes as well as the presence of high-end designer clothes. range and leather products.

“For example, while clothes such as Versace and Gucci can be expensive when purchased new from chain outlets, they are available on the second-hand market for as low as $10 (Sh1,143). ),” the report read.

The same goes for leather products such as shoes and bags, which the report says there is a perception of quality due to the variety available.

“People with an appetite for fashion and trends can easily find unique fashionable clothes and shoes on the second-hand market,” the report said.

This shows that a luxury international brand would cost Sh70,000, while a second-hand brand would be between Sh20 and Sh1000.

The report juxtaposes Kenyan industry with that of Ethiopia, which is estimated to boost the country’s exports by $30 billion (3.4 trillion shillings) in garments and textiles. Germany and the United States are the main market destinations.

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