“Technology has yet to be merged with the fashion industry in Africa.” These are the words of a fashion guru, Ms Kemi Kalikawe, who has been doing designing throughout her life.
Kemi is the founder of Naledi Dream Centre, a fashion hub that empowers and appraises fashion enthusiasts to leverage on technology to create personal and professional opportunities for themselves for the purpose of fostering creativity and inspiring leadership.
Naledi Dream Centre was established in 2019 with a goal of elevating the works of rising and established designers in Tanzania and introducing the world of e-commerce.
Media Convergency sat down with Kemmy for interview who highlighted on their fashion hub and how they can link fashion and the tech industry to work hand in hand.
The gap attended and inspiration
Naledi Dream Centre wants to transform the way designers or tailors work, from custom made to measurements to having a collection of ready-to-wear outfits through standard measurements. There will be no need for the client to go to a designer for measurements.
“So where we come in is how we provide skills to a designer to design a collection for many and not one customer with the right sized measurements like the bust, waist, hips or height, which also has to appeal to the targeted customers. We ensure the designers are well capacitated in how they can manufacture these collections and market them on the e-commerce industry.”
Kemi has travelled to different fashion industries around the world and one thing she has learnt is that wherever she went, they would ask her: ‘Can I have your look book?’
“Basically a look book is the clothing that you are going to sell to a customer and you want to sell to a shop. The challenges to that were the fabrics found in Tanzania. Where do you manufacture it at that stage and what I’ve learnt throughout the journey is that if I am facing these challenges, others are too and I am overcoming them. So how can I pass on the knowledge to other people so that it is not only one person doing this but many people. That’s how the idea of Naledi Dream sprouted into life.”
Bootstrapping as a startup capital
“We basically started off with the personal savings I made. I only invested Sh2 million, so we have always thought of how we can train people and hire teachers to get to this quality-of-service delivery with the minimum but still get to use the latest technology. So far I can say the company has grown but it is not where we want to be. We are in talks with different partners in expanding our operations,” says Kemmy.
Target customers and market reach
“We initially targeted people who were just starting out as designers but now we are focusing on established designers who are running fashion businesses. Those who need to move from what they’ve normally been doing into ready-to- wear and be able to sell in e-commerce.”
Kemmy says they reach their targeted customers through the word of mouth. From what she has been doing in the past 10 years, people reach out to her every now and then. They also use fashion associations or events to send out information about what they are doing.
User interface and service
Kemmy says they reach out to companies providing technological advancement of some sort and tell them about their wish to link factories with designers.
This is given the challenge of getting custom made ready to wear, why factories would not work with designers. “We need a technology that would help link factories with designers.”
Kemmy also shares that most Tanzanian designers do not know what a pattern is and factories always demand for a pattern from a designer but through the tech- companies that she partners with, they provide an avatar that helps create a pattern automatically when a designer is designing their clothes with all its standard measurements.
Before a designer sets out to the manufacturer, they can do a customer survey to see if they like the design or not and if statistics show that 80 per cent of their customers love the design, then they can now go to the manufacturers and provide them with the pattern and the data that includes the exact number of clothes to be manufactured, the measurements required and therefore the designer can work efficiently with the factory. Once the product is manufactured then it is ready for sale.
Kemmy says there are similar initiatives elsewhere but not in Tanzania. “You know we are still lagging behind in terms of how we leverage on what is already there to give what the customers want or what the market wants a year from now.
“So, we want to train people on how to use data analytics to find out what it is that people are mostly buying before you start designing. Once one designs, we also train them how they can market it, how they can reach platforms they are putting it on, how they can sell it on e-commerce and the logistics behind that as well.”
“We are grateful to fashion companies that trained us. The programme covered Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda. This was a chance for us to network, see what others are doing and showcase what we have done so far in the fashion industry in Tanzania.”
Kemmy also acknowledges their customers, who are the designers in Tanzania who took the initiative to join the courses to improve their skills, get educated and prepare for professional excellence.
What to improve
Looking back, Kemmy says she regrets nothing because that was part of her journey and that she would still walk in the same steps. When asked about what would help in enhancing their services, she said; “Definitely, funding and a team with the skills-set to execute our vision. Also working with international companies by merging our skills.”
“When Covid-19 hit, we had to close down but the good thing that came out of that is that we had to be innovative by finding ways to continue operating amid the pandemic. We ended up working in different places when we needed to do workshops through partnerships.”
Next step and word of advice
Kemmy sees Naledi building a coalition by leveraging on technology and using the skillset of designers from Tanzania and beyond to revolutionise the fashion industry.
Her advice to innovators is that they should not be afraid to work with other people or share their ideas because that is how one can grow.
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