Lora Achieng’ is an upcoming Kenyan fashion designer and CEO of Afro Hemia Designs, a clothing company based in Nairobi. She talks all things fashion and style.
How did you get into fashion?
Initially, after high school, I applied to study fashion at a college in Marbella, Spain. Unfortunately, I was denied a visa.
My parents suggested I should join the United States International University-Africa where I studied International and Public Relations.
I loved the course, but as similar to many Kenyans, I didn’t end up practising it.
I decided to pursue my career passion, as I have always been a creative person.
What inspired the name Afro Hemia Designs?
I would say it’s African and Bohemian meaning it’s ‘hippie’, thus I combined the names Africa and Bohemia.
I grew up in Mombasa and I’m influenced by that laid-back relaxed vibe, and that’s initially how the brand started.
But over time, its operations have changed and my projects have expanded and there are more styles I incorporate into the brand now.
Tell us about your accomplishments as a fashion entrepreneur?
I started this brand in March 2018 just before I turned 25 years old. I decided I wanted to do something different with my life and I was bored with my ‘9-5’ job, as it wasn’t taking me anywhere and I moved on to take the risk to do something that I am passionate about.
Having run the business for three years and still going on is an achievement for me.
What are the specialties of your designs?
Our most recent release is our streetwear collection where we have his and her’s hoodies and matching couple outfits.
We also have kimonos for women and also a new one for men called the sakura collection. We have swimwear too that we launched last year during the first lockdown.
We custom-make everything, so whatever clients want we make it happen. In the past, we’ve also designed and made bridal and bridesmaid outfits so we’re versatile.
Is it easier for you to have an online shop as compared to a physical one?
Yes, because I’d have to mass-produce my clothing into various sizes and it wouldn’t be custom-made to my client’s needs anymore.
That would be a lot of pressure for my business as things are unpredictable right now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But we do deliver all over Nairobi using the Bolt app. Most of our clients come from Mombasa and for them we usually use Modern Coast buses.
We also have clients in the diaspora of whom we have sent shipments to the UK and US among others. We work with FedEx to do the shipments.
What are your future prospects?
Just surviving a few more years, as there’s a lot going on right now, so I am happy to stay afloat.
I want to expand and have multiple shops. I want to do modest wear for my Muslim brothers and sisters as well and just have more presence in the Kenyan fashion scene.
What is your take on the fashion industry in Kenya?
Firstly, there is no one to mentor you out here. When I started, I reached out to various leading designers to work as an apprentice and didn’t get any feedback.
So, you have to scrape through by yourself, as everyone seems to be competing with each other.
The fashion scene here is tight in the sense that selected few get the opportunity to shine.
It’s monopolised by a few, so I just want to keep pushing until my brand name goes far and beyond.
I want to work more on TV shows, get partnerships and be cast as a wardrobe director.
How do you see fashion in Africa evolving?
I’m really proud of African fashion right now. We are doing really well. We’re creating our own trends and the world is noticing us.
Your advice to other aspiring fashionistas…
Stand up by yourself; don’t let anyone take advantage of you just because you’re trying to grow your brand.
They know your worth, so just believe in yourself. I had to cut many people off who just wanted free services and products.