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CRAFTED Nairobi and The Street Wear Industry

CRAFTED Nairobi and The Street Wear Industry

 Wana Muthama is a charming young Fashion designer behind CRAFTED Nairobi. The brand specializes in streetwear apparel and fashion accessories and upcycles all their fabric. She has always had a keen eye in fashion but her background in the hospitality industry sparked a lot of curiosity about the staff uniform and why they picked the particular design, material and pattern, but it was only after she moved back to Kenya in 2018 that she decided to take this path seriously and cement her place in the fashion industry. We had a great opportunity to chat with her.

When did you begin your journey in the fashion world and what was your inspiration?

I started my journey in 2015. That’s the first time I made a piece of clothing. Therefore after coming from the hospitality industry my main inspiration was the functionality of the uniforms and also the culture I gained from different countries I worked. The housekeeping department in different countries can use the same material as they as moving around in the same manner, although the design will differ due to the cultural representation

Your designs are mainly streetwear, why did you decide to specialize on that?

This is my personal attraction to clothes, like these are the type of things I wear from Monday to Sunday *Laughs*. Even in 2018 when I moved back to Kenya I found it hard to find outfits that I could wear and clothes that I like and at the end of the day it stops being feasible to buy things from overseas and stuff. Therefore once I decided I was going to start a clothing line, it just made sense to solve my own problem first and then start seeing what other problems people are having and grow through that

Do you see yourself expanding past the streetwear in future?

Most definitely, before I’ve been curious about silk and printing on clothes. It’s only the beginning I guess and it’s also in terms of the technology you find in Kenya to use certain items so it will be a gradual increase and I can’t even tell you where I will end up, but the growth will definitely never stop.

Do you source for the material locally?

We source everything from the waste zone in Nairobi, Kenya. Basically there are all these manufacturers in Kenya and once they finish with a material they deposit the excess to these waste zones, and that where i go to source my material.

The majority of the patterns on your sweats appear quilted, what inspires the choice of designs?

CRAFTED Nairobi: Trashion to Streetwear Luxury
CRAFTED Nairobi Website

The reason why we use the quilted fabric for this collection is because once you enter the export zone and look around all the stalls this material was in such grand amount. Therefore it was more important to solve the bulk of the waste first and to do something good from it rather than get these small pieces of different material. I mean on top of that we are also a slow fashion because in these waste zones, they only have certain amounts of certain fabrics. Even for this collection we only have 10 items of one piece. Therefore it is very limited just because we are trying to reduce the waste first before we change anything.

How is your design process, from working with the tailor until the final design is ready?

My creative process is very un-structured. I haven’t studied fashion so I have a tailor who I have been making samples with since 2015. The tailors that I used for this collection help me a lot through the process because I don’t have any formal training, but on my side I start with the sketch process. I outline the shape and design of the pattern then after that is the pattern process.

I guess the pattern is the hardest part for me so far because I like the baggy oversized look and that is something I found to be very hard for tailors in Kenya to understand, because in Kenya we usually like things fitted and it’s meant to fall in a certain way on our body. That was the hardest part, to explain how the ethos of the patterns are supposed to be in my brand, but then after that once I figure out the pattern its sourcing materials and seeing if we can allow that pattern to exist in the best way with that material and also trying to help the material complement the pattern in a natural way

What are your challenges with tailors since we know they are very unreliable and do not know how to keep time.

*Laughs*. That’s very funny because it’s true, maybe it’s a 2020 thing but I came to terms with the fact that everything happens in its time. I’ve realized the best outcomes come from allowing people to do what they need to do in order to make something as you like it.  To be honest the waiting game is a big problem for me but everything happens in its due time, so it’s been a thing of acceptance. But I mean acceptance with a good outcome.

Who are your customer targets?

CRAFTED Nairobi: Trashion to Streetwear Luxury
CRAFTED Nairobi Website

I haven’t been able to reel in my demographic because I have been wrong in the past. what I have ended up deciding is that my target customers is anyone who can find a relation to the garments I make.

I have also found someone who is 13 years old(from Kenya) buy the same thing as someone who is 60 year old in America . Therefore it’s very hard to place that specific target market but I open my channels up to as many people as I can.

Do you ship outside Kenya or your main target is starting local first before taking it International

I’m going to start within Kenya, just to learn the business. I would like to know how to distribute effectively and efficiently and then once I finish up with that I will start opening up more .I will expand within Africa so I can give my continent the first kind of accessibility to what I’m providing and try utilize these channels in the best way. Although I find it interesting that sometimes we think of ourselves as a Kenyan fashion designer but in reality we are just fashion designers from Kenya so it’s just like trying to be international but still represent Kenya.

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What design can you say is your most iconic, and what makes it unique?

It’s like trying to choose your favorite child (Laughs). We also make leather back packs which we have been selling for a year, although we haven’t posted anything about them they have sold so much. It’s a very simple design, and while I was designing it, I didn’t have much faith in what it could provide.

I thought it would just be a back pack. I didn’t really think about the process so much or the functionality while I was designing it. People use it for sports, outdoor activities, work, leisure trips, travelling among others, so it became more functional that I thought. Therefore going into this collection having that realization of what that back pack could do made me believe more in what I was doing for the clothes.

How much do your designs go for and where can people purchase them?

The garments range from 15USD to 65 USD. There are still things we are waiting to release before December ends so this is not the full collection that we will release. For now we are only selling exclusively on our website.

The leather bag goes for 200 USD. We will also sell card holders which will cost 30 USD

How has COVID affected your business

I was about to do my production overseas before COVID and work with different individuals. Unfortunately once COVID started all communication kind of became less significant or impactful. Nothing really made sense at the beginning, so as soon as COVID happened I started taking the local market more seriously. I did my research and through that I realized that everything can be sourced, made, produced and sold in Kenya. I also asked myself, what if Kenyans had to rely on their own resources and have to produce everything locally. What would that look like and from that I was able to come out of my shell and do everything within my own city, Nairobi. COVID also allowed me to be more sustainable than I imagined since I don’t have to import too much.

Do you have any advice for upcoming designers?

If you feel connected to something approach it with a mentality of what feels true to you and is natural. As long as someone does something that they can approach with passion, a kind heart and understanding. I feel like the outcome of those inputs can actually be something very beautiful.

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