KikoRomeo was founded twenty years ago by fashion Designer Ann McCreath and means ‘Adams Apple’ in Kiswahili. Ann who is of Scottish decent came to Kenya and worked for a relief organization Médecins Sans Frontières as a country representative for three months before quitting due to her frustrations on the effectiveness of aid. Having one of the largest brands in Africa and beyond, she has stamped her footprints on the global fashion map and there’s nothing stopping her from souring higher.
I paid a visit to her shop based in the Yaya Centre shopping mall to know what makes her tick and this is what she had to say:
How was Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in South Africa last week? Was this your first time to attend?
Fantastic as it is a well-known platform, it gives a lot of mileage and is very strategic. The show production quality is good, with excellent photos. The show is produced by Jan Malan as he has really big networks in Johannesburg. It was quite exciting as it was my second time there after going in November 2014. First time I had a Ready-To-Wear show and the next one I had Couture. People remembered me from my last show. On the first day we had a pop up shop and it was sold out.
Which celebrities have you dressed before?
Lupita and Dorothy Nyongo, Ajuma Nasenyana, Siba Mtongana and her husband, 2 Face Idibia and Mya.
For how long has Kiko Romeo been in existence?
For 20 years since 1996.
What is your target market?
African. I’m already selling in Ghana as I look to expand in South Africa, Dubai, Nigeria, London, New York City, Los Angeles and Paris.
You manage your daughter Iona’s fashion line-Kikoti. How has it been for her straight out of University as an upcoming designer?
She actually has two more years in University. She makes clothes to make them affordable to many. I’m looking for an investor as she needs backing.
Do you think Kenyan Fashion is moving in the right direction or do we have a long way to go?
In the local market we are moving in the right direction with lots of variety of consumers. The fabric is too expensive for small scale designers. We need to have duty free on our imports. Price Point is also determined. In terms of international market as quality needs to be consistent. Factories can guarantee that to you.
How come there are not that many fashion shows happening in Nairobi lately?
Fashion shows cost alot of money to produce and find that funding. KikoRomeo Vintage show is in September while FAFA will be in May next year since it will be low season in Tourism and in global fashion to invite top models and journalists. Time and resources are key factors to consider. It is a major opportunity for designers, timely before elections and hotels are able to partner with us.
You founded FAFA. Why did you start the FAFA Fashion Market?
It was a regular platform bringing people together, showing great products we have. Tourists need to come there to shop. Neighbor goods Market in Johannesburg inspired it, gives a great vibe, beautiful arts and crafts, and shows products together with fashion and lifestyle.
What happened to the fashion forums that used to take place at your shop?
I reduced the size of my shop as I stopped them towards Christmas. I need a new venue for them, I need to put more time in my brand. I had gone on break for 3 months and it’s a useful forum for fashion covers.
What challenges do you face as a fashion designer?
Fabric supply and price is too high, continuity of supply are big problems, buying upfront in bulk which is financially risky,variety,quantity is a big problem, capital and interest rates are way too high. Highly trained labor fashion schools not training people properly. Technical skills remain the problem.
What stands out about you and your brand?
High Quality and consistency, made to last, very strong on design and color, the cut, very good fit. Give additional surfaces, alter to fit. Take full responsibility when something goes wrong. I cant afford my brand name to be tarnished. If there’s a mistake we correct it.
What happened to Fafa Emerging Designers?
The winner Waithira became globally outstanding and Jamil Walji was a great designer. I’ll bring it back soon.
What is your price range?
Kikoti-1900 to 6900kshs for clothing items
KikoRomeo-7900 to 24900 Kshs
KikoRomeo Couture-28000kshs and above
Any advice to young aspiring designers?
Learn the technical skills, youtube, and google whether in college or not. Learn what you’re not being taught. Get experience in working for someone else. Learn to use Excel for spreadsheets, do some kind of business training. Don’t confuse friends with customers as you’ll charge them too little. Cost your product properly both materials and markup-put correct price on it. People should pay in full to ensure trust with clients.
Any last words?
It doesn’t matter what you study because you can still work in the fashion industry. Fashion is a business and has the usual sales, administration, logistics, marketing and technology.