Tailors In Kenya Might Be Making a Comeback, But How Can We Make Them The Mainstay?

Tailor : commons.wikimedia.org

According to the Business Daily article Tailors stitch a come back in Kenya tailor popularity is making a return. Below is a summary of the article

Summary

  • Many shoppers shifted their attention to small business malls popularly known as ‘‘exhibition’’ which stocked huge consignments of cheap imported clothes from China and a host of other countries such as Turkey.
  • Others took to portals to shop for clothes with the blind hope they would fit them.
  • Some shoppers also thronged open — air markets for mitumba from Europe and the US. In 2017 alone, Kenya imported about 135,868 tonnes of used clothes worth Sh13.06 billion, according the Economic Survey 2018.
  • things are changing gradually as more buyers discover that the foreign wear swamping the market do not work for them.
  • Some buyers of the imported ready-to-wear clothes are also confronted with the horror of trying to find a perfect fit because the garments were designed for completely different body shapes to theirs.

So, why they are making a comeback?

One might ask, “what changed?”

  • Like in most other African countries, many women in Kenya are curvy. Most find the small-sized imported Chinese and European garments ill-fitting and unflattering to the African physique. This is an issue shared by both men and women
  • International superstars like Beyoncé and fashion houses like Louis Vuitton are recognizing the beauty and vibrancy of African fabrics and fashion, resulting in renewed appreciation by younger Africans. Where previously donning clothes with African prints would be seen as uncool, now it’s all the rage. If Beyoncé is doing it, it must be cool, right?
  • More acceptable to wear Afrocentric office wear in Kenya now, slowly moving away from the colonial standards of dress. As more people embrace the African aesthetic, it is more common to find professionals in African prints, especially in the Metropolitan cities such as Nairobi and Johannesburg.

Challenges

As one would have expected, this come back presents its own challenges.

  • A new tailored dress for example costs a minimum Sh3,000 — way more expensive compared to second- hand imports that may cost a few hundreds of shillings. This is largely attributable to lack of raw material locally and a lack of skilled labor.
  • Fabric remains expensive in Kenya, with consumers relying on costly imports mainly from China and the wider Asian market, and from European wax fabrics.
  • About 93 per cent of cotton used locally is imported to meet Kenya’s quantity and quality demands, this creates supply chain issues whose costs trickles down to the consumer.

I am glad to see tailors get the much needed appreciation. However, much still needs to be done to ensure that they are not set up to fail, just like the previous times. There need to be readily available and affordable training, machinery and labor to help them scale in order to fulfill the rise in demands for their services. Now that they have made a comeback, let’s find solutions to make them the mainstay.

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