Key takeaways for fashion industry from pandemic

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

The Covid-19 pandemic evokes very sad memories. Although we were not all infected, we were all affected.

Globally, various sectors of the economy took a beating as the pandemic continued to take its toll.

The fashion industry in particular bore the brunt of the pandemic as consumers prioritised their spending on food and medication as incomes dwindled. Factories, as well as small-scale enterprises, closed their doors.

But as a recent study commissioned by the British Council reveals, 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, especially in the fashion industry, calls for the involvement of the Kenya fashion industry since there is a lot of interest from stakeholders and the government to see the local fashion industry grow.

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

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

This has left Kenyan fashion designers facing stiff competition not only from large-scale imports of second-hand clothes but other cheaper imports under the economic realisation programme.

Unlike the Italian fashion industry, which is linked to the most generalised concept of “Made in Italy,” a merchandise brand expressing excellence in creativity and craftsmanship, the Kenyan fashion industry suffers from poor policy implementation strategies that promote uptake of the local fashion industry.

Instead of supporting individual designers with the “Made in Kenya” concept, the policies are skewed towards bigger 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 apparel industry has all players in the supply chain, their relevance to the fashion industry continues to reveal major gaps that affect the development of SMEs, resulting in a preference for imported textiles due to difficulties in consistent local sourcing.

Textile manufacturers prefer large-scale clients over designers who buy multiple varieties of fabrics in relatively small quantities, causing a mismatch in the supply chain.

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