“Initially it felt overwhelming and daunting. The announcement of COVID 19 having reached Kenya imposed an emanating sense of worry that rippled through our supply chain. As the designer and founder of the company I was, and still am, determined to keep my whole team employed and at full salary (which they are). I feel responsible for their wellbeing and therefore decided to focus on what we are able to do as opposed to give into the looming feeling of helplessness. Connecting with our community – our customers, our artisans and my team is my top priority at all times, and this situation has really highlighted their importance to me.”
on what this looks like for Ria Ana Sejpal, the founder of Kenyan clothing and jewellery brand Lilabare, and her artisans.
“I designed a face mask using our premium cotton in-house excess (we always keep our scraps to reuse because of our zero-waste policy). Usually we’d make gift bags, scrunchies and the like…now all of that has gone into masks. We are donating 10% of these to those who need them – those who cannot work from home for example. In Kenya, so many people rely on daily incomes and they should be protected.
I am heavily focused on connecting with our audience digitally. The internet is our saving grace right now and we are lucky to not only have our own website, but stock on Akojo Market! Our platforms are enabling us to give people our artisanal, handcrafted pieces despite what is happening in the world.”
“Think about the resources at your disposal and your strengths as a designer, and figure out how to help your local community with your skills. Often, fashion can be seen as frivolous, but we have skills that are incredibly useful to the world…plus, almost everyone wears clothes everyday! We have the ability to be compassionate to people around us because our livelihoods depend on serving others’ needs. Let’s all use our natural inclinations to beat the virus together.”