The fashion industry in Kenya has majorly revolved around outdoor wear – shoes, clothes, hair, and make-up. However, indoor wear is having its moment as people seek the same comfort, versatility, and luxury they want for the outdoors, inside their homes.
Maureen Njuga recalls the first time she wore pajamas. It was during a sleepover that she had been invited to by one of her friends. Before this, time at home and in bed was spent in old t-shirts and gym shorts.
“I’ve never forgotten the feeling I experienced. I felt so nice and comfortable,” the 30-year-old recalls.
Eager to maintain this feeling, she sought to find sleepwear but could not find any in the market. It was while on a business trip to China that she came across some, buying them for herself and a few extra for sale. She spent Sh6,000 and bought 14 items.
“I came back home, and posted them on Instagram, unsure of what to expect. They sold out on the same day, marking the beginning of Simple Pleasures,” the founder of the brand says.
The part online, part brick-and-mortar store sells new and thrifted sleep and loungewear of different kinds – lounging robes, lingerie dress sets, and pajamas - to its 30,000 Instagram followers offloading up to 70 pieces in a day. The business employs four people.
“The days of wearing Seng’eng’e ni ng’ombe and Kibaki tosha T-shirts, deras, and stockings on the head are coming to a quick end,” says Wanjiru Mucheke, the founder and CEO of Modern Living Stores – Indoors. “People want to look and feel nice while at home.”
Ms Mucheke is passionate about providing sleep and loungewear aimed at making your stay-at-home cozy and classy. She remembers the first nightdress she wore bought from Nairobi’s Gikomba
– it was pink and cost her Sh100. She went on to hawk sleepwear for two years while searching for employment opportunities.“I couldn’t understand how most of us would get home, take off clothes, shoes, and make-up worth thousands of shillings only to wear old t-shirts!”
Founded in 2020, Modern Living Stores – Indoors stocks a variety of indoor wear items ranging from soft lounging and sleeping shirts, pajamas, and dress sets made from materials such as satin, silk, cotton, and lace. The online store also sells indoor slippers, headbands, and sleeping bonnets.
Recent years have seen a rise in the sleep and loungewear industries, fuelled mostly by the millennial and xennial generations that take self-care very seriously. This has in turn created a huge market for producers and retailers in the apparel industry. The trend has also been buoyed by the constant messages on the need for comfort and sleep wellness.
“People do really want to take care of themselves. I can tell you that there’s no greater feeling than getting home after a long, exhausting day, taking a shower and then slipping into soft and luxurious pajamas. That act in itself induces relaxation,” Ms Mucheke, a business development manager, says.
Social media exposure has also opened people to a new way of being at home through pictures, Tiktok videos, celebrities, and social influencers.
The trend has also been fanned by the advent of sleep wellness and how good sleepwear promotes better sleep. Curating a tranquil sleep setting is not only about soft sheets and silk pillows. Breathable quality sleepwear does away with overheating and night sweats which disrupt sleep.
The Covid-19 pandemic also validated these local sleep and loungewear entrepreneurs.
“My business grew monumentally during the pandemic. With the working from home policies, people suddenly realised that they hadn’t invested in comfortable home wear,” Ms Njuga, a trained accountant, says.
Pajamas are great because they double up as day wear. According to her, investing in quality sleep and loungewear is crucial. Most of her clients are women aged between 19 and 40.
“It also changes how people perceive you at home. I recall a client who told me that her purchases have spiced up their marriage.”
Product prices at Modern Living Stores – Indoors range Sh500 to Sh4,500, coming in pairs or sets. She directly sources them from suppliers in Korea, China and Indonesia. Pink, black, and white are the fastest-moving colours.
Women aged between 19 and 50 make up the largest proportion of their clients, as well as a few men.
“We also sell to bridal parties as well as parents who are looking for pajamas which are a requirement for school boarders,” shares Ms Mucheke, whose business employs five people. For most, this is their first interaction with sleepwear.
Like any entrepreneurial journey, there are setbacks which include expensive shipping costs and delays, dead stock as well as the dollar swing.
“Kenyans are still much a touch and feel generation so even as much as I run an online store, I have to have a physical location for them to try out their purchases,” the founder of Modern Living Stores – Indoors points out.
“Another challenge is that women don’t know their body sizes.”