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Sustainable Fashion

To train young people in the art of fabric design to enable them to make a self generating income.

Photo of Lorna Abwonji
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To create a platform/system where unemployed young people all over Kenya can get skills to do fabric decoration and design and make the fabrics produced available for the local market. The textile and fashion industry has the opportunity to employ people based on skill rather than education level. Because there are various ways to implement fabric decoration techniques it presents an opportunity to create diverse range of unique hand decorated fabric . The East African countries aim to ban second hand clothing in the next three years meaning that there will be a big gap in the clothing and apparel industry. One of the challenges designers like me face in Kenya face is lack of accessible unique local fabric in bulk. Most fabric in Kenya is exported and the locally produced ones do not have variety. This makes the whole production of clothing expensive because the fabrics in the market favor imported range. Empowering young people to produce quality fabric in small cottage industries across the country will help narrow the gap of lack of unique high quality locally made fabric


-Young Kenyan entrepreneurs between ages 18 to 35 - they can work on the fabric decoration on part time or full time basis and earn an extra income from it. -The Kenyan fashion industry - alot of people getting into apparel making and being able to have access to a fabric decorator to make their own unique print would be an added bonus for them to stand out. -The public at large- The public can also have unique fabrics decorated for them as personal or gift items or for corp orates as well


Lorna Abwonji has been in the Kenyan fashion Industry for 9 years both running her own fashion brand Mia Mara Creations. Hoping to get collaborators to help implement this idea where I am based in Nairobi and spread it to the rest of the region as I partner with local experts in the fabric industry.


  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda


  • Yes, for more than one year.


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

Youth unemployment is a very serious issue in Kenya and because of this it has forced a lot of young people to get into entrepreneurship in the informal sector. This type of business is usually not sustainable or scalable and few remain in it before they get frustrated. Many young people also cannot afford to pay for formal training after school.

To help bridge that gap I believe Mia Mara Creations project Dress Up Kenya can help give training in fabric decoration to enable the young people to create an income for themselves. This can be done on a full time or part time basis because the skill is generally easy to learn. Because the fabric design techniques are diverse the person can decide to specialize on the particular technique that the market demands.

The idea is to create small Community Youth groups in community centers or religious institutions of young people who are interested in learning fabric design techniques and teaching them the skill. Once they learn it we connect them with local designers through an online platform so that they can receive orders and also have a drop off location where the fabrics produced can be inspected and sold for mass market.

Kenya is currently investing more in local small scale fabric manufacturing and these plants can be great partners for the business. Manufacturing of fabric is very cost intensive and most local fabric manufacturers produce basic plain fabrics without putting any print. Adding value to the fabric can make it more competitive in price as compared to the imported fabrics.

The biggest cost would be training as well as the initial capital for materials needed to implement the work. 

The changing fashion trends will also make the business relevant for there will always be room to come up with new competitive techniques and designs.

Attachments (1)

Fashionomics_Creative_Industries_ES brochure.pdf

A report on the importance of investing in the African fashion Industry


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kevin Mureithi

Hi Lorna, great job working on improving the livelihoods of young people in Kenya through hands on training in the fashion industry!. Just a quick note, will you be offering this training as a business or as CSR and if it will be paid for, will the fees be affordable to the target youth? Best, Kevin

Photo of Lorna Abwonji

Hi Kevin, great question . No it is not a CSR [Corporate Social responsibility]. Working with young people has taught me that they tend to take it for granted when things are offered for free. My plan is to use a method where there is some form of payment to be a part of the program and get training and where we can inspect and buy the best from the youth in the program, like what is done with farmers at times. Also to encourage the young people in the program to independently look for their own markets to see to. I think this method can also allow them to chose to do the fabric decoration on part time basis as they pursue  further education on various fields or fashion related ones as well

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