How did Genteel Fashion come to life?
After conceptualisation we went into extensive research before the 11-month development process of the brand. We got into business afterwards in 2016.
My business partner, Brian, plays team with me when it comes to sharing ideas, creativity and decision making. Runnning the company alone can be really tedious and draining.
What exactly were you in quest of during the research?
A pillar on which our designs would successfully anchor on. One of the things we realised during this reaserch was that our forefathers were very flamboyant and liked colours.
But you see, having been colonised by Britain, we were sadly muted and forced to be conservative. Genteel then set out to reclaim this power that we’d lost and incorporated it into our designs.
Interesting. By that you mean the use of colours in your designs?
Exactly. One of the ways we felt we could showcase our cultural inspiration and take back our power was by doing bold inner linings that not only adds a statement of individuality but also serves as self-expression.
It is our statement piece. We are telling cultural stories using inner linings and we are going to travel to each community starting with the Samburu, to syphon from their cultural aspects and infuse them into our designs.
Is that what prompted the creation of Nairobi Unfinished designs?
Yeah. Our inspiration for Nairobi Unfinished stems from art, culture and music, but culture predominantly. We try to think of how to express our day-to-day cultural lives.
Nairobi has a humongous supply of matatus with bold prints that I’ve borrowed from and used on my brand. Since this city is very commercial, I had to incorporate that to some of our formal wear. This pieces show that Nairobi is transitioning from very semi-formal to formal.
Now that your brand is up and running, do you have a physical location or store?
We do not have a physical store yet but we have a website. We are focusing on online orders for now. We are, however, working on getting our brand into well-performing stores.
Who is Genteel Fashions targeting?
Our label is targeting men between the age of 25 and 49 and they are buying. The average suit goes for Sh27, 500 and the high-end tailored costs sh100, 000-150, 000. We only do menswear and accessories such as bags which are doing well in the market.
We have legitimately avoided doing any formal marketing because we know it might get overwhelming. We are working on putting structures in place to enhance delivery of quality services. This will be very essential when we fully delve into casual wear as well.
When you hold off on formalising marketing, doesn’t it undermine your company’s potential?
I think it is more about measured growth. If you are not careful in fashion, you might end up with a brand that is so big that you are overwhelmed and unable to run effectively. That will force you to hire more people who may not adhere to the vision and brand value and water it down.
Where do you shop your fabrics?
We currently import our fabric from India, Belgium, England and China. We get the best quality because our brand is here to deliver what comes with the price.
That must be costly. Don’t we have what you need in the market?
It’s costly but the beauty is that it gives us a unique edge that people appreciate and for value.We haven’t found that which fits our brand here.
How did you get into fashion and design?
I did a short certificate course but I majored in business and IT when I was in University. I’ve always had interest in fashion. Business aided in building a strong foundation for me as a fashion entrepreneur rather than being a designer alone.
The old age question; what has been your stumbling point?
Raising capital, getting the right set of people to work with and facilitating funding in order to move and achieve our next goals. Many investors are very averse towards investing in the creative industry and hold back a lot.
What’s next for your company?
We are working on exporting internationally. We can’t wait.