When James Gaita completed his secondary education in the late 90s, he was sure of what he wanted to pursue; fashion and design. As a young man, James had an eye for fashion and was fascinated by well-designed clothes.
“My grandfather owned a tailoring shop that specialised in suits. Since my high school days, I wore clothes that I had personally designed. I enjoyed coming up with new stylish designs. I would design and give it to my grandpa's tailors to stitch it up for me as I did not have the skill then,” he explains.
James enrolled at Evelyn College of Design in Nairobi where he trained in fashion and design, where he learned illustration, drafting, cutting, sewing, and business.
After graduating, in 2004 he founded Jakari Clothing, a cut and sew company, which deals primarily in denim jeans.
“Denim is a sturdy cotton warp-faced textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. It is a heavy fabric, which fades naturally and is good for leisure. It is easy to play around with denim,” says James, explaining why he settled for denim.
“We specialise in trousers and jackets, work wear, denim shirts, caps, and also children denim suits, we sometimes get a family ordering for similar denim suits.”
A regular day for James starts around 7am, which begins with cutting and stitching.
“We engage the client in the creative process where he gets to chose not only the design but the thread, buttons and finishing he desires. This ensures that the finished product has a personal touch and it is next to impossible to find the same exact piece with someone else,” he explains.
A large majority of their clientele are people who do not fit into the imported jeans, mostly from China, especially the curvy women.
“Most of the jeans from the Chinese and European markets are not designed for African women who have small waists with bigger hips. For instance, the hips might fit but the waist might be too large or the length needs to be adjusted,” he notes.
James usually gets referrals from clients who need their jeans adjusted who then become customers of his custom-made clothes.
The jeans range from Sh3,000 and if it is pre-washed fabric, the price goes up. He sources his fabric both locally and abroad. However, he points out that sometimes it is hard to get quality material because what you order for is not always, what you get.
Another challenge is the influx of cheaper imported jeans that have flooded the market.
So, what does James want to do in the future? “I'm currently operating and selling my jeans from a workshop. In future, I would want to open a flagship store where I can display my jeans for people to come and buy. I would also like to open a fashion school and help nurture young talent as I believe we have too much untapped talent out there,” he says.