Important insights for the fashion industry from the pandemic

KikoRomeo founder Christine-Ann McCreath speaks during a recent meeting in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The Covid-19 pandemic brings back very sad memories. Although we weren’t all infected, we were all affected.

Various sectors of the economy around the world have been affected as the pandemic continued to take its toll.

The fashion industry in particular bore the brunt of the pandemic as consumers prioritized spending on groceries and medicines as incomes shrank. Factories and small businesses closed their doors.

But as a recent study commissioned by the British Council shows, the pandemic has also forced us to be proactive and change the way we do business.

The report – Fashion DNA Kenya Needs Analysis – finds that building more resilient value chains through innovative business models, particularly in the fashion industry, requires the involvement of Kenya’s fashion industry as there is strong interest from stakeholders and the government to see the local fashion industry grow.

Aside from the pandemic, the fashion industry is being plagued by many challenges.

For starters, government initiatives like Buy Kenya, Build Kenya in 2017, whose strategies include reserving 40 percent of public procurement for local goods, have suffered from a lack of safeguards.

This has left Kenyan fashion designers facing stiff competition, not only from large-scale imports of second-hand clothing, but also from other cheaper imports under the Economic Realization Scheme.

Unlike the Italian fashion industry, which is associated with the most general concept of “Made in Italy”, a brand of goods that expresses excellence in creativity and craftsmanship, the Kenyan fashion industry suffers from poor policy implementation strategies that encourage acceptance of the local fashion industry.

Rather than supporting individual designers with the “Made in Kenya” concept, the policy is geared towards larger companies and Cut, Make, Trim (CMT) manufacturing at the expense of Full Production Package (FPP).

Notably, there are 22 foreign-owned companies within Export Processing Zones (EPZs). While the Kenyan garment industry has all players in the supply chain, its relevance to the fashion industry continues to reveal major gaps that hamper the development of SMEs, resulting in a preference for imported textiles due to difficulties in consistently sourcing locally.

Textile manufacturers favor large customers over designers who buy multiple types of fabric in relatively small quantities, creating a mismatch in the supply chain.


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