Fashion

How Dominic’s clothes became a big business

fashion

Frederick Bittiner Wear workshop on December 3, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Summary

  • Launching a fashion house in 2019 was not the idea he had when he first envisioned Fredrick Bittiner Wear.
  • Whereas the plan looked good on paper, making it into a reality was a costly affair. It required not only machinery but passionate and committed tailors.
  • A big proponent of ready-to-wear clothing, he and his team of designers draws their inspiration from day-to-day experiences.

When Dominic Agesa founded Frederick Bittiner Wear, a fashion house in Nairobi, he picked a name with no boundaries. One that would stand the test of time, and allow him to sell his clothes anywhere in the world.

“We started off working with plus-sized women who were uncatered for years ago,” he says.

“The reception was great and this caught the eye of many others. Now we serve women of all sizes and next year, we’re launching a men’s line,” he says.

Launching a fashion house in 2019 was not the idea he had when he first envisioned Fredrick Bittiner Wear. He wanted to import clothes from designer shops in the UK and sell them locally. Together with a friend, they embarked on this journey only to be forced off-track by the pandemic.

“With the government banning {temporarily} the importation of second-hand clothes, we had to rethink our strategy. Our eyes were suddenly open to the untapped potential in the market. We blotted out all importation plans and worked our way into the place we are today of designing and making clothes, not just for the local, but also the international market,” he explains.

fash

Frederick Bittiner Wear ready for delivery at the fashion house's showroom on December 3, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Whereas the plan looked good on paper, making it into a reality was a costly affair. It required not only machinery but passionate and committed tailors. He also wanted to build a business that would run itself.

“To raise the funds, I invited 17 tailors I had been working with to be stakeholders in the business. Each contributed Sh30,000 that I was to return if the business went south. It was risky, I know, but I believed in the business model.”

With this money and his financial investment, he bought the first machines, growing the apparel company to one that has a capacity of producing 10,000 pieces of clothes per month.

Designs from Frederick Bittiner range from everyday essentials to fierce and playful pieces just as their names “flirty flow, icy woman and bang on a budget” suggest.

With 14 new designs every week, produced in limited editions, they ensure that buyers get unique pieces.

fas

Frederick Bittiner Wear at the fashion house's showroom on December 3, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

A big proponent of ready-to-wear clothing, he and his team of designers draws their inspiration from day-to-day experiences.

During his daily fitness runs, for example, he was inspired to design leggings and t-shirts after seeing women jogging in boring outfits. On launching this line of fitness clothing, the demand was so high, outweighing the supply.

“The customer is the foundation of the masterpieces created. We ask ourselves questions like what they like, how they spend their time,” Mr Agesa who has a background in strategy and marketing says.

He also supports upcoming designers launching their own fashion houses through their Startup Designer Package. So far, they have trained 40 small-scale designers.

Launching a successful clothing line is more than just coming up with eye-catching designs.

A few months into the business, he noted that fashion designers have skills but lacked the crucial aspects of strategy and marketing, foundations of a good business.

“Through the startup package, we help designers build an all-rounded business. Additionally, we help them make and sell their clothes on our platform,” he adds.

This approach has seen him become the Executive Director of the Kenyan Fashion Council.

“This platform will enable me to use my passion and my skills to make the industry better.”

Social media is the tool he uses to sell his clothes.

“Most people think the brand is imported. It’s refreshing to hear positive comments about the brand,” he says.

The name

The challenges he has experienced have pivoted him to build a business that relies on systems and principles instead of people, a choice that has seen the business run even in his absence since the team works towards the shared vision.

Most fashion houses are named after their founders.

“The problem with this is that once the vision bearer dies, so does the business. The vision I have is bigger than me. I intend to create a lasting impact in the fashion industry. I, therefore, hire first, for vision compatibility,” he says.

But why the name Frederick Bittiner?

“It’s an ode to Frederick Bittiner, an artist I feel was not celebrated enough.”