Panah production house in Nairobi’s Jamhuri estate gives you the feeling of walking into a beehive. At the centre of the hall, women fold apparel seams as the sewing machines hum.
On the side, others with hot iron boxes remove cringes, and further in lies the brains of the whole production team. This is where the pattern makers are found; a job so technical that a single bad pattern or cut can ruin or change the entire outfit.
The small office of Evgeniya Khromina, the co-founder of Panah luxury house is surrounded by heaps of finished and unfinished clothes making her petite form almost hidden in the fabrics surrounding her. Her headache—to keep up with the numerous custom orders.
“A designer will come to us with his design and our job is to do the patterns, stitch a sample, do fittings until we get the perfect end product. Designers like Cocolily or Katungulu Mwendwa come to us with their own designs sketched on a paper, so they own the design. Our job is to develop it to become a garment that someone can wear,” says Ms Khromina.
The whole process is called production development. Being a cut-make-trim house, the prices are calculated based on the complexity and finishing of the garments and range from Sh10,000 upwards per piece.
“What we make for our clients is sold in high-end fashion luxury stores such as Barneys New York and Collette Paris,” she says. The co-founder says she has trained and currently employed 35 people, most of whom are women who strive to educate their children with income earned at Panah.
Since launching two years ago, Panah has worked with top designers and international brands such as Lemlem, a fashion house by Ethiopian super model Liya Kabede and Edun, founded by Ali Hewson and Bono, the musician.
“We have developed patterns and sewn clothes for leading designers such as Adele Dejak and Doreen Mashika. Now, we are making Lemlem’s ready-to-wear line, exclusively made in Kenya,” says Ms Khromina.
Own clothing line
Suno, a New York luxury brand that stormed fashion capitals with its new approach to kanga will make a comeback to Kenya with Panah making its Spring/Summer 17 collection.
Panah specialises in ladies wear, made from chiffon, silk, and light cotton. It uses cellular manufacturing methods where the tailors are put in support groups to allow better quality control and to reduce waste.
The stitches have to be perfect, to impress their hawk-eyed high-end customers.
‘‘The process is tedious because each garment is inspected for measurements and quality,’’ she says, adding that she is proud that Panah ‘‘hasn’t failed a single inspection to date’’.
Next year, she plans to launch their own line of fashion inspired by safari and wildlife.
‘‘We also want to bring more international brands because we feel that Kenya has the potential to compete with the big names,” says Ms Khromina.