Africa’s Fashion Industry is on the rise and this fact has not gone unnoticed by entrepreneurs. The continent is seeing a mushrooming of African business men and women taking this opportunity to improve, refine and define the industry so that it may stand head and shoulders with its global counterparts. One such entrepreneur is a Kenyan, LEE OYUGI who co-founded an online store called KNITTING AN EXQUISITE INDUSRTY and was founded in June 2015. I caught up with him in an interview.
Inspire Afrika: Who are the founders and how was the concept formed?
Lee Oyugi: Martin Mwendia and I are the founders of KEI. Well, the concept came initially from the realisation that there was a problem with the fashion industry in the country; the largest contributor being the shortage of quality tailors. Then slowly we improved on the idea and eventually after quite a bit of trial and error and sought after advice we decided to open the online store.
IA: What exactly do you guys do?
LO: We grow fashion brands from small businesses to autonomous enterprises by sourcing for the quality tailors and fabric, selling their products as well as getting mentorship for them. Currently, we are focused, primarily, on selling their products. However, we are looking for mentors and still sourcing for quality tailors and fabric on a smaller scale.
IA: How does the transaction process work and which online platforms do you exist on?
LO: We receive orders via the number 0795 107 815, make arrangements with the client on the delivery area (free of charge within the Central Business District) and deliver the goods upon which the client receives a receipt for their purchase. You can find us both on Instagram and Facebook @kei.onlinestore. And soon the items will also be available on our site www.kei.co.ke. And for anyone who may wish to join please contact us via: email@example.com, +254 703 797 392/+254 711 199 218 or by Direct Message to any of our pages.
IA: Do you promote particular designers?
L.O: Yes we do. 3 designers: Angela Ola, KVFV and Evemaya. The other 2 brands we promote do not deal primarily in design but in supply: Fabricsafric and Fireflyz Kenya. We get them through referrals.
IA: How many orders per day or per month? How many people do they target to serve? Is this full time?
LO: I would say we get 3.5 orders per month so far. We have been operational for roughly two months, and have 7 orders so far. We are looking to get an average of 10 orders per month by the end of December. And we are not full time. We are still university students and do this part time as a side hustle.
IA: What do you think is the potential of the African fashion industry?
LO: The industry is the metaphorical iceberg. There are the beautiful pieces of fashion that we see that sprout out from African brands almost every other day. However, the fashion art can scale significantly and be renowned for quality artistic products not only for people in Africa, but people the world over. There is still the larger and more beautiful part of the iceberg that lies underwater and needs to be brought out and flaunted. Africa can be known for the elegant continent that it is rather than the poverty that lies within it.
IA: What have we been doing wrong all this time?
LO: As much as some people do make a living from it, we have been poorly managing the basics that we need for the products. About, 45% of the fabric one buys on the street is not genuine. And aside from that, more than half of the tailors out there produce substandard work and end up disappointing majority of the clients they get. Over time especially in Kenya, the profession on tailoring clothing has become untrusted and associated with poor quality. Other than that, most Africans would prefer foreign clothing to Africa produced attire because of the wanting quality associated with it. With these few problems out of the way we may be well on our way to becoming the hallmark of elegance and class as far as fashion is concerned.
IA: How will your company contribute to this?
LO: We are sifting the tailoring market and finding the best quality tailors out there for not only the designers we promote but for the public as well, free of charge. As their quality becomes better known, we slowly increase the number of tailors that we host on the site based on strict measures of quality. Eventually, tailors all around will begin to strive for the quality that the client needs for the specific garment that they need made or mended. Simultaneously, we are pushing and promoting local brands that produce quality products as well as looking for fashion moguls around the continent to mentor upcoming designers.
IA: What are your plans for the future?
LO: Our plans for the future are to disrupt the fashion industry in Africa for the better and to ultimately alleviate the problem of lack of decent clothing, a basic need that is not very accessible to every single person in the world. Countless organisations deal with the lack of food and shelter to the poor but few look to deal with the lack of decent clothing and we as KEI want to change this as well. We may not help every single person but for even one person helped, we will have tailored a significant difference.