ZikoAfrika first gets you with the name. Creativity starts right there. Their designs are something else! Pretty, classy and iconic! One of the things I learnt from my interview with the brand is that Nairobi has so much resources and materials.
If you are in Kenya and have been stressing over importing all your materials for the production of your designs, maybe you have not explored Nairobi enough.
ZikoAfrika is a boutique contemporary brand inspired by the dual heritage of founding sisters Sisi and El. The sisters are of Kenyan and British heritage and both studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. With a strong interest in fashion and design, ZikoAfrika was born.
If you love fashion forward, trend-neutral accessories, then you will fall in love with ZikoAfrika accessories. The two sisters have worked hard to design some of the most iconic pieces from the continent employing neon, B/W, shuka and zamani styles.
ZikoAfrika works with a number of ethically certified workshops like the Bombolulu workshop working with over 100 disabled individuals, Panâh, a unique fashion production, Clear Vision Graphics, Peter Ekela among others to deliver high-end production and create employment and training opportunities.
Each product is crafted in Kenya and reflects both European and African aesthetics for a modern take on traditional forms and materials.
The brand is also board member of the Association of Fashion Designers of Kenya, working with the government, private sector and financial institutions to build a strong, fair, fashion industry in Kenya.
Here is what Sisi, one of the sisters and co-founder had to say. This brand is going places!
Tell us about ZikoAfrika it’s a very unique name how did you come up with that?
My sister and I established ZikoAfrika in 2014. The brand name roughly translates from Swahili as ‘Africa has it’ or ‘it can be found in Africa’, and encapsulates our passion for promoting the fantastic resources found in Africa, from skilled production to creative inspiration.
El and I are of Kenyan and British heritage. We spent our first few years living in Kenya before moving to England, but always travelled back to visit family and stay connected with the country. After both studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London we worked in the development field in East Africa and came to realise that the creative industries have huge potential to act as engines for positive socio-economic development.
We have always loved experimenting with fashion and styling, and saw a great opportunity to express our passion for design by establishing a brand that offers a contemporary take on Africa’s rich culture of adornment while projecting a positive view of the continent to local and global consumers.
ZikoAfrika – it’s all in the name!
When was your first big break?
I wouldn’t say we’ve had our big break yet. We had a lot of interest in our products early on but didn’t have the production capacity to meet demand. So over the past couple of years we’ve really focused on getting to a position where we can scale as a business.
2016 has definitely been exciting so far. We’re launching an e-commerce store for the Kenyan market, partnering with some fantastic local personalities and have been accepted on a number of programmes for start-ups, including a business accelerator programme and a market incubator for an international trade show in New York.
Who would you say is your major target market?
We have two target markets – international and local. Internationally we’re looking to appeal to 18 to 34 year olds who love minimal fashion and are ethically conscious. Locally we’re aiming to provide fashion-forward homegrown products to middle-class Kenyans who want pieces that reflect both international trends and new urban African identities.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Our inspiration comes from iconic African design that we then interpret through a clean, minimal lens. At the moment we’re loving Ndebele art and in the past we’ve heavily referenced Tuareg designs.
The whole production is done in Kenya? Where do you get your materials?
We keep it very simple and only use brass and perspex. All the brass is recycled and sourced locally. The perspex is bought in downtown Nairobi with the exception of some of the neon colours that come from the UK. Our packaging and swing tags are also produced locally – there is so much that can be sourced here! You just need to spend a bit more time searching for it.
What is the one thing about your products that sets your brand apart from the rest?
I would say it’s our minimal interpretation of African design, creating pieces that are affordable, fashion-forward and appeal to a wide consumer base.
How has it been working together and what has been your number one challenge?
We work very well together – we both have different strengths but when it comes to aesthetics and vision we are very much aligned. I wouldn’t say we have one single challenge working together – it’s more the challenges faced by getting a start-up off the ground with limited human and capital resources.
ZikoAfrika prides itself in creating employment as well, Tell us about that?
The creative industries are not currently recognised in Kenya’s Vision2030 but we feel that they can play a really important economic development by providing and creating manufacturing jobs. It’s therefore really important to us that as we grow we continue to source and produce locally, helping to contribute to the expansion of the sector as a whole. We also sit on the board of the African Association of Fashion Designers in Kenya that is working to support various players in the industry from designers to producers of fashion items.
What’s the plan with ZikoAfrika 5 years down the line?
Our vision in five years is to be the leading provider of affordable, design-led online fashion in Kenya. Internationally we aim to be recognised as a brand delivering fashion-forward and socially conscious design to the high-street, stocking in the UK, Mainland Europe, US and South Africa.
Watch this space 😉
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