“Technology has yet to be merged with the fashion industry in Africa.” These are the words of a fashion guru Kemi Kalikawe who has been doing designing throughout her life. Kemi Kalikawe is the founder of Naledi Dream Center, 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 inspire leadership.
Naledi Dream Center was established in 2019 with a goal of elevating the works of rising and established designers in Tanzania and introduce the world of e-commerce. Kemi sat down with Tech & Media Convergency (TMC) for an interview to highlight about what their fashion hub and how they can link fashion and the tech industry to working hand in hand.
The Gap attended and Inspiration
Naledi Dream Centre wants to transform the way designers or tailors work from custom made to measures to having a collection of read to wear outfits through standard measurements without having a client actually go to a designer for measurements.
Kemi says, “So, where we come in, is how we provide skills to a designer to design a collection for many and not one customer with right sized measurements like the bust, waist, hip or height which also has to appeal to the targeted customers, we ensure the designers are well capacitated on how they can manufacture these collections and market them on the E-commerce industry.”
Kemi tells us, as she travelled to different fashion industries around the world, one thing she has learnt is that wherever she went they would ask her ‘Can I have your look book?’
“Basically a look book it’s a cloth 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 to 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 these but many people that’s where the idea of Naledi Dream sprouted to life.”
Bootstrapping as a Startup Capital
“We basically started off with the personal savings I did, I only invested two million shillings, so we have always thought how can we 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 and we are in talks with different partners in expanding our operations.” Says Kemmy.
Target Customers and Market Reach
“In the beginning we started by targeting people who were just starting out as designers, but now we are focusing on established designers that are running fashion business, who need to now move on from what they’ve normally been doing and move into ready to wear and be able to sell in e-commerce.”
Kemmy tell us the way they reach their targeted customers it is through the word of mouth, from what Kemmy has already 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 “So, what we do is reach out to a company that’s providing a technological advancement of some sorts and tell them there are designers in Tanzania and East Africa and because of the challenge that we see of getting from custom made to ready to wear why factories would not work with designers, we need a technology that would help link between factories and designers.”
Kemmy also shares that most Tanzania 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 cloths with all its standard measurements.
Before a designer sets out to the manufacturer, they can do a survey to their customers to see if they like the design or not and if stats show that 80% 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.
“I would say yes there are other similar initiatives but not in Tanzania, you know we are still lagging behind in terms of how do we leverage on what is already there to give what the customers want or what the market wants a year from now and so what we want to start is how to train people how to use data analytics to find out what it is people are actually buying most of before you start designing.
She adds, “Once one designs, we also train them of 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 for Fashion companies that trained us voluntarily and the program was not only in Tanzania but to countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, this was a chance for us to network see what others are doing and showcasing what we have done so far to the fashion industry in Tanzania”
They also acknowledge their customers who are designers in Tanzania of all ages who took the initiative to join these courses to improve their skills, get educated and prepare them for professional excellence in the Tanzanian Fashion Industry
What to Improve
Kemmy says she regret nothing because that was part of her journey and she would still walk on the same steps, when asked about what would help in enhancing their services she said, “Definitely, funding and a team with the skillset to execute the vision that we have as Naledi Dream, also working with international companies by merging of our skills.”
“When Covid-19 hit, we had to close down but the good thing that came out from that we had to be innovative of how we can still operate even with the pandemic going on, we ended up working in different places when we need to do some kind of workshops through partnerships.”
Next Step and Word of Advice
“I see Naledi building a coalition by leveraging on technology and using the skillset of designers from Tanzania and outside the country to revolutionize the fashion industry.”
Kemmy’s advice to innovators is they should not be afraid to work with other people or share their ideas because that is how one can grow.
For further details about Naledi Dream Centre visit Tech & Media Convergency (TMC) YouTube channel by scanning the QR Code to this article. Like, share and subscribe for more insightful stories, one can also access the online conversation about Naledi Dream Center across all social media platforms using the hash tag #ImpactTechTZ
Tech & Media Convergency (TMC)