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Making Clothes is My Business

Meet Josephine who turned her love for fashion into business

BY Agnes Amondi

Nov 04, 2022, 08:34 AM

The majority of young people are always looking for a breakthrough in the white-collar job sector. That was the same path that Josephine Okinyo, a fashion designer in Nairobi was on before she decided to start her business in fashion and design.

Whilst what you’d like to pursue is never quite obvious and changes over time, Josephine always had an inkling about where her interests lie. Even then, fashion and design was not her immediate engagement. 

After graduating from catering and culinary arts school, she worked in various roles in the hotel industry but opportunities were few and far in between and thus, she had to look for a fallback plan. 

My journey began a long time ago. I always knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry because I had the desire to make clothes. When I was in primary school, I loved watching pageant shows like Miss World but never thought that I'd make this my career 

With a clear target of what her next step would be, Josephine had to find a reasonable starting point.

“I started small. I was an understudy at a friend’s shop where most of my work involved doing repairs but I wanted to do more. I wasn’t proud of just doing repair work because I was very conscious about what my former schoolmates and other people who don’t know me would think; that perhaps I’m a school dropout and I’m just trying to survive.

“I wanted to do something that would market me more and show my ability to make creative and beautiful pieces. This is why I went for a fashion and design course and this is the end result,” Josephine said as she displayed the pieces of work she has crafted."


Josephine focuses on ladies' clothing. She crafts most of her pieces but also outsources blazers, jackets and a few dresses to add to her collection. The kimono makes a huge part of a collection.

“I was experimenting with different designs and it so happened that after tailoring a few pieces, clients loved them and started asking for more. Now, I make kimonos regularly. 

"These are easy to wear. You simply layer on top of other clothes. It could be a dress or a fitting top that’s been paired with a trouser. The amazing thing about all of them is that they are free size, meaning they can be worn by people of different sizes and worn on different occasions - weddings, church, school, even as casual office wear.”

“Some of my clients asked for ankara-blended accessories and that's why I added bangles, head wraps, bags, ladies poach and many more which helped me diversify my business."
Customers have not been easy to come by. Where do most of her clients come from and who are popular buyers of her products?

“Walk-in customers are the most common. Over time, I have also landed customers through referrals. Social media is a great tool for marketing and engaging with potential clients as it helps when it comes to accessing a wider market as being in a fixed location can be limiting particularly if you aren't widely known."

The fashion industry can be very cyclical. Different seasons call for different styles. With an ever-changing market, how does Josephine remain relevant?  

“I’m always keeping tabs on the latest trends. Things change very, very fast and if I work blindly, I’ll find myself producing products that don’t have or meet the market demands.
Ankara blended chiffon tops
There are lots of avenues you can use to do this; such as social media where people love posting themselves wearing current trends so that’s a clue. Listening to customers. Sometimes clients want something you haven’t made before so it’s a matter of learning and adapting. Also, you must identify your unique selling point and once you know that you develop it consistently.”  

What challenges does she face?
“In the beginning, money was an issue. I was still in school and paying part of my school fees. Whilst I had the support of my parents it was tough because I still had to make sure I have working capital to keep the business going and all the expenses are met. But now looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful because it taught me a few lessons about saving and getting to know how to handle finances.”

"The other challenge is that people expect you to work for a lower rate than the market value. This happens because some people think you aren’t competent enough or you don’t compare to the high-end designers. Also, I guess most people don’t have an understanding of the input that goes into creating these designs which is why they think the buying price is too high. 

“The irony here is that some who push back end up becoming regular customers. They admit that the services I offer are of high quality and have a complete change of thought. So that’s always interesting. On my part, it’s further indication that if you offer value then in the long run people will always come to appreciate it. ”

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