By Candice Ungerer
Textured fabrics, braille tags, QR codes and bags made to be worn close to the body are just a few of the features of the latest collection by emerging Kenyan fashion brand, Hisi Studio. Hisi Studio was founded in May this year by Kenyan designer Angela Wanjiku Murigi. Hisi means ‘feel’ in Swahili and the garments and accessories are made to be enjoyed by everyone, including people with visual impairments.
Shopping for clothing and accessories can be a challenge for people with visual impairments. In her final year at University of Nairobi, Wanjiku came up with an idea to design a fashion brand that addresses this challenge.
Since starting in SITA’s Mitreeki Fashion Incubator Programme last December, she has developed the concept and brand further, turning the once school project into an operational social enterprise.
SITA’s Mitreeki fashion programmes in Kenya and Ethiopia provide a holistic approach to the development of women-owned fashion businesses. The programmes incorporate practical group training, one-on-one mentoring, factory visits and participation in international trade fairs and fashion shows.
“I have benefited from the Mitreeki programme immensely,” says Wanjiku. “Having joined the course with only a business idea, I have already implemented a number of the lessons which have transformed the concept into a fully functioning company.”
While undertaking the course, Wanjiku says that she has found her brand’s DNA and has learnt how to create content that maintains her values and aesthetic. She has implemented business management systems as well as setting quality control and standardization measures that will ensure the products are able to meet international standards.
“The information I have learnt has prepared me with a library of methods and strategies that I’ll be sure to pull from throughout my career as a business owner and beyond,” says Wanjiku.
Wanjiku has been able to expand her network as a result of the Mitreeki programme and is now working with local Kenyan enterprises such as Dragonfly and Mfuanji Clothing to produce her fashion line.
The Mitreeki Fashion Incubator Programme is being delivered by renowned Nairobi-based designer and founder of fashion house Kiko-Romeo, Ann McCreath.
“Ann has taught me how to accept feedback in important areas, such as communications, technical abilities, change management, and leadership skills as well as team work dynamics. I have also gained confidence in relation to how I articulate the fundamental values of my business and have become more empowered to make decisions.”
Going forward, Wanjiku seeks to incorporate environmental sustainability measures into the company’s production. “As I grow more conscious about the impact the fashion industry has on the environment and the planet’s wellness, I hope to implement and find solutions within my business to reduce this negative impact.” Wanjiku also hopes to offer more design solutions for people with disabilities to enhance their independence and dignity.
Wanjiku is just one of 32 talented designers in Kenya and Ethiopia who are participating in the nine-month long Mitreeki programme. Search #Mitreeki on Instagram to see what some of the designers in the programme have been getting up to and watch out for our new online directory of designers in Nairobi and Addis Ababa — coming soon!!