Stories from KENYA: Trust in FASHION

Tom Fletcher’s motto “Float like a bee, sting like a butterfly” can be always useful on T-shirts especially if they are made in Kenya (JLA Facebook, 2020).

Rural Africa is known for its calm nature, wildlife, and adventure. But the cities? The interlace of brisk business and traffic. Eastern Africa’s Kenya is no different. There are so many fashion-minded urban centres, thanks to the established and new enterprises taking part in the country’s development and sustainability efforts (World Bank, 2020).

In this article, we explore the fashion design industry in Kenya and its challenges. Can Kenya’s fashion industry reach its full potential, and compete with other multibillion-dollar industries in developed countries? She “has several players, and there is always a crop of talented fashion designers coming up, however, only a few fashion designers are successful” (Joyce Aloo, 2015). [1]

Focus on Kenya’s MSMEs

The government has developed a range of strategies to encourage “industrialization”, as a part of its Big Four agenda. This includes the expansion and creation of economic zones and industrial clusters. A UK-based study, held in 2019, aimed at better incorporating MSMEs (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in leather, textile, and garments production) into the value chains, the zones, and the clusters (Krishnan, Te Velde and Were, 2019). The purpose of this integration is to help transform the entire economy.

Following the Textile and Clothing boost roadmap plan, Kenya can actually achieve its economic development objectives and can “enable market penetration and product development through trade intelligence,” according to Hon. Adan Mohamed, Cabinet secretary at the Ministry of Industry investment & Trade (Kenya: Textile and Clothing Value Chain Roadmap, 2016-2020).

Product Liability & Laws in Kenya

MMSEs constitute around 80% of Kenyan enterprises and “approximately 7.4 million MSMEs in Kenya jointly contribute about a third of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” and yet more than 85% of them remain unlicensed (Krishnan, Te Velde and Were, 2019).

Figure [1]: Photo credit to ChilliMango Clothing brand (the group)

As stated in the constitution of Kenya (2010), Kenyans are proud of their culture and are committed to “nurturing and protecting the well-being of the individual, the family, communities and the nation.” According to the Thomson Reuters “Practical Law” platform, product liability and safety is regulated under the following laws: The Constitution of Kenya, Sale of Goods Act 1931, Consumer Protection Act 2012, Standards Act 1974, Competition Act 2010.

Kenyan Fashion & Culture

Preserving nature is the first step to enabling an inflow of life’s necessities, then the luxury of nature and that of the environment. Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher, considers humans as inhabitants and a part of nature devine (Jason P. Matzke, 2014). In reality, we are wild and free in selecting whatever we like to wear or consume from different brands and different styles. We are the ones who create designs, choose, and purchase our own outfits… from head to toe.

[2] ChilliMango is a very creative brand, which produces fashion items with the concept of selling them to the world; being open to new and potential markets. The brand makes everything handmade in Kenya; it is an obvious catch for the youthful generation who love “music, art, culture, diversity and Africa” (ChilliMango, 2020). ChilliMango has mixed all of those elements in its brand identity.

Here’s another example. Chloé Mitchell, who was born in England and raised in Kenya creates beautiful head-wear. The Chloé Mitchell Millinery brand sources the materials in Kenya and aims to be eco-friendly (Chloé Mitchell Millinery, 2020). The milliner has been doing a brilliant job in promoting the country’s native culture while indulging in a modern British look. It shows the brand’s commitment and passion for African “Kenyan” roots.

Fashion Industry & Covid-19 Challenges

When it comes to marketing strategies, social media is a preferable online marketing platform for businesses. The cost of advertising is low compared to the traditional marketing tools.“In Kenya, the lack of customers and stiff competition are the major challenges facing over 55% of the apparel traders, thus, resulting in low profitability” (Jacqueline, Isabella, Rolle 2016).

A 2009 market study revealed that: “One major problem for the growth of the industry is the larger second-hand trade…” (Edwinsson, Nilson, 2009). Taking into account, however, Covid-19 pandemic safety measures, the government made some moves to ban the importation of second-hand clothes. As expressed in an NYtimesarticle, this action opens doors for the rise of new fashion entrepreneurs and manufacturers in the country (New York Times, 2020).

A prominent online newspaper tells of one Catherine Muringo’s wardrobe. It is made of secondhand apparels shipped from different parts of the world. “For years, Muringo bought the used clothes and accessories at cheap prices in open-air markets in Nairobi…” (Independent, 2020). Yet, a few months ago, the government banned the secondhand clothing imports, even though the material gets sterilized before they are shipped.

Kenyan’s Competitive Advantage

Mr Jaswinder Bedi, chairman of ACTIF (African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation) and Vice President of ITMF (International Textile manufacturers Federation) stated in a study report: “There is no doubt that the East African region can only grow its textile and clothing industries by strengthening its competitive advantage on all fronts including product, quality, productivity and competitiveness” (Kenya: Textile and Clothing Value Chain Roadmap, 2016-2020). This country can be wealthy with its diverse fashion entrepreneurs and enterprises that can penetrate international markets with their various creative design projects and platforms.

We list some of the best fashion e-commerce websites in Kenya:

Kenya can be exposed to the world through the above e-commerce websites, fashion brand media appearances internationally. The promotion of its fashion design specialization schools can help bring out more fashion entrepreneurs for the future.

Brand communication is one of the hot topics in the current social media scene. “Social Media marketing has created a virtual market place where customers can communicate directly with fashion enterprises in real-time and build a relationship with the retailer, thus increasing sales or repeat buying. The lack of touch or fit of fashion products online, however, is still a challenge ” (Jacqueline, Isabella, Rolle 2016). Nevertheless, customers who are collectors of art and culture will enjoy Kenyan products as they are designs from a great African culture and heritage.

Today, fashion brands have e-marketing tools in their grasp for reaching a wide audience, increasing profit, and taking market share. The advancement in technology, the changing trends and tools, robotics, and AI within the fashion industry (Robotics and Automation News, 2019), means that Kenya can do more to build its human capacity to excel sustainably.

Photo credit: Cabo Delgado



  • Jacquelinem Kisato, Isabella, Wandaka, and Rolle, JoAnne, “Social Media Marketing in Micro and Small Fashion Enterprises in Nairobi, Kenya,” International Journal of Social Science and Business, Vol. 1 No. 4; December 2016,
  • Jason P. Matzke, “Humans as “Part and Parcel of Nature”: Thoreau’s Contribution to Environmental Ethics,” Ethics in Progress, Vol. 5, p.170, 1 September 2014, Accessed 10 September 2020.
  • Tao, Mai, “How robotics and AI are changing the fashion industry and warehousing sector,” Robotics and Automation News, 26 November, 2019 Accessed 10 September 2020.

  • The World Bank in Kenya: Overview. 31 July 2020. Accessed 10 September 2020.


  • Constitution of Kenya, 2010,
  • Nyabwa, Jacqueline, Kaniaru, Wangui, Anjarwalla & Khanna, Doing business in Kenya: overview, Thomson Reuters Practical Law, 01 January 2019,

News Items

  • Daher, Abdi Latif. “Kenya’s ban on importing used clothes opens way for renewal of local design” Independent online newspaper, Accessed 9 September 2020.
  • Daher, Abdi Latif. “Used Clothes Ban May Crimp Kenyan Style. It May Also Lift Local Design.” New York Times, Accessed 9 September 2020.

Other References

  • ChilliMango website, Accessed 10 September 2020.
  • Chloé Mitchell Millinery wesbite, Accessed 10 September 2020.
  • Edwinsson, Louise, and Nilson, Annica, “Fashioning Kenya: A study of Kenya as a market for domestic fashion brands,” Borås, June 2009
  • International Trade Centre, “Kenya: Textile & Clothing Value Chain Roadmap,” 2016-2020,
  • Krishnan, Aarti, Dirk Willem te Velde, and Were, Anzetse, “Integrating Kenya’s Small Firms into Leather, Textiles and Garments Value Chains: Creating jobs under Kenya’s Big Four agenda – Summary”, May 2019, Supporting Economic Transformation (SET)
  • Kute Esther Joyce Aloo, “Contributors to Fashion Designers Success: A Case Study of Top Fashion Designers In Kenya,” 2015, Univeristy of Nairobi, M.A. (Design) Thesis.
  • JLA Facebook page, “Tom Fletcher shares the story of his surprising first time on stage…,” 15 June 2020,


Based in Lebanon, Hasmig ‘Jasmine' Boyadjian is an experienced writer and a promising researcher within the areas of sustainable enterprise communication and digital media. Hasmig earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marketing from NDU-Lebanon and is pursuing a Master’s degree in the field of communication. Hasmig has published articles and features on social issues, arts, culture, fashion and healthy living. Hasmig is also a “Social Entrepreneurship” trainer certified by UNESCO Beirut and Save the Children. Hasmig aims to support entrepreneurs from all over the world, through personal and corporate branding services and training. Hasmig loves playing tennis, enjoys origami art, and volunteers online during free times.

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