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Designer goes big on African clothes trade

Nairobi is filled with tailors who specialise in making African-print outfits but very few are mass producers due to the high costs involved.

It took Frank Mugendi a start-up capital of Sh300,000 to make kitenge dresses, shirts, trousers and Nigerian outfits in large numbers.

Mugendi, the proprietor of Embu Weavers in the CBD, started his business after buying two secondhand 20-U design machines that cost him Sh100,000 and a chain machine worth Sh100,000.

He then added ordinary machines that bind the outfits.

Employ staff

“My intention was to mass produce and sell the clothes to distributors and wholesalers who don’t manufacture the final garments,” said Mugendi who has employed ten workers and runs an exhibition shop in the city centre.

He buys materials of different kinds including bazine, used to make Nigerian suits, Tanzanian fabric and kikoi from a local fabric manufacturer.

“A metre of kikoi goes for Sh400 while bazine retails at Sh800 but we charge the customer in the final transaction,” added Mugendi.

“We run eight electric machines and can produce up to 80 African-design shirts and tops a day. In the same duration, we also produce four kitenge dresses because they have complex designs,” said Mugendi’s workshop manager, Anthony Karuku.

He services the machines once in a while for Sh1,000, while it costs him Sh7, 000 to replace the machine motors .

Mugendi’s clients include politicians, artistes, schools and churches.

“You should look at Emmy Kosgei’s dressing; after all, we have dressed her,” said Morris Mutugi, a sales representative.

High demand

The garments prices vary.


“Since we solely manufacture for wholesalers, we sell kitenge outfits for Sh800 on wholesale and Sh1,500 for individual clients,” said Mutugi, noting that their products are always in demand and at times they are overwhelmed by the number of orders.

Mugendi has been in business for ten years and gets opportunities to display his products at international exhibitions.

He has been to Rwanda, South Africa and Dubai. In a good month, he gets a net income of about Sh100,000.