What you need to know:
- Susan Nzuki,45, is the founder of Susan Nzuki fashion house
- She makes at least four pieces every day
- Susan: Some clients order a particular design then later claim that it wasn’t what they wanted
The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said that it does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. This is the principle that Susan Nzuki, 45, from Nairobi lives by. She is a fashion designer.
“I knew that my future lay in the clothing industry the moment I laid my eyes on my finished clothes which had taken me almost a week to make. I grew up in Mombasa and almost every mother in the neighbourhood had a sewing machine. Often, I grabbed a stool and patiently watched as my mother transformed pieces of fabric into beautiful garments. I was always fascinated by her skill, diligence, and creativity, “she says.
Susan’s goal was to one day make unique clothes that would satisfy her customers.
“Armed with only a sewing machine and a few pieces of fabric provided by my mother, I began the journey of fashion designing. I started making clothes for my friends and employed word of mouth to market my work. However, soon after establishing the business, I realised that there were many fashion designers in the market and the competition was stiff. So I decided to go enrolll in a Nairobi-based college and pursue a two-year diploma course in fashion and design- to boost my skills which have propelled me to where I am today,” she says.
Fired up by the need to make a brand for herself and earn money, Susan went back to Mombasa after her studies and began her business with her friends as her first clientele.
“When I met my husband, I had to move back again to Nairobi. This was a blessing because besides supporting me, he introduced me to his networks and they supported my work. I remember getting orders to make clothes for church choirs, friends, and weddings among others. In 2006, I established the need to have a shop where clients could easily locate me, and luckily, I got one in Kimathi House along Nairobi city centre. I began small and got a few orders which kept me going, “she offers..
Marketing on social media
Shortly after opening her shop, Susan got other orders through referrals and used part of this payment to expand her business. “From my first profit, I was able to get more fabrics and accessories and even managed to get three employees. While the business was in its formative stages, my task was to attract and retain clients to enable the business to pick and flourish in the market, “she offers.
Susan counts herself lucky because she has fulfilled her ambition to build a successful career as a fashion designer. Even with the economic recession that has gripped the world because of the pandemic, her shop is still standing.
“At Susan Nzuki Fashion, we combine style, quality, and luxury with the professionalism and expertise of the fashion industry. The African continent has always been my inspiration for my designs as it offers diversity and rich culture. I love creating something unconventional away from traditional styling which in this case may involve incorporating very bold and bright colours that stand out and can be recognized from a distance. I source for my materials locally and in the East African region, “she says.
Her customers include couples, children, bridal parties, schools, companies, and churches. “Knowing what attracts them has given me an edge over other designers. I sell a complete outfit between Sh 3, 500, and Sh 7, 000 if the client purchases the material from the shop. Our costs start from Sh 2, 500 if the client chooses to bring their own fabrics. I think Kenya has a good market and I plan to expand it to the East African region,” she adds
The advancement of technology has created new trends and opportunities in fashion. Susan makes most of her sales online, through different social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
“I get most of my clients through referrals. From my research, I have noted that clients want unique yet affordable designs. So instead of focusing very much on the profit margin, I prefer to charge less and make many designs,” she adds.
Often, most customers order clothes for special occasions, such as dowry ceremonies and weddings.. However, even with the success, the business has not been without challenges
“I prefer customers choosing their own design but I am always there to guide them on what best suits their body shapes and colour or texture depending on the occasion. One of the biggest challenges I face is the fact that clients have different tastes and preferences so I have to buy various types of fabrics and they don’t come cheap. Also, in my line of business, I meet clients with different temperaments. For instance, there are those who come with a specific design in mind and won’t budge when I tell them that it doesn’t suit their style. Others will order for a particular design then once they see the actual product, they claim that it was not what they asked for.
Susan offers that they make at least four pieces on a daily basis,
“In the future, I hope to open a fashion school in the future to mentor others. To the youths still waiting for jobs, if you are artsy, you can use your talent to make a living instead of waiting for employment, “she concludes.