Six Challenges You'll Encounter While Shopping For Menswear in Kenya.

Shopping for the classic and on-trend menswear in Kenya should not be a hustle. Men in Kenya deserve to look smart and should not fall victim of impulse buying. We are very artistic and creative enough to expertly fill our wardrobe with the most stylish menswear items. Our lovely women may unfairly accuse us of not being romantic enough, but we sure know how to dress well. For the brothers who find it hard to land the trendy and head-turning outfits, here are six challenges you may have come across.

1. Too much polyester

Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya Street and Garissa Market in Eastleigh are currently the most popular large and organized shopping destination in Nairobi. The markets are characterized by very small stalls filled with apparels, accessories and footwear. Both for men and women. The stalls caters for everyone to satisfy our fashion desires. However, I have one big problems with the items on offer in these stalls. Almost everything is made from cheap polyester fabrics. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to find high quality items made of natural fibers, but the chances are very minimal.

Polyester is a synthetic fiber (artificial) made from resins. We all failed in chemistry, so we will ignore the process of chemically turning the resins into the polyester fiber. The best thing about polyester is that it’s very cheap since it’s made from artificial sources- the main reason clothes made from polyester and polyester blends are inexpensive. Polyester is also durable, it stretches, does not shrink or crease easily. However, the biggest drawback of polyester fabrics that should worry you, is that it doesn’t breathe well. When you wear polyester clothes, perspiration and heat are trapped next to the skin. Wearers often feel very sticky and clammy in hot and humid weather. They are also very uncomfortable and may cause allergies to some people.

Clothes made from polyester look very cheap when worn. They are very stiff and maintains their shape and therefore there are chances its shape will clash with body shape of the wearer. Polyester clothes do not drape naturally on the wearers body like natural fibers do. The clothes may appear very smart and suave before they are worn, but after a few wear and laundry visits, they lose shape and lustre.

 2. Too much imitations/Copycats

 In addition to many local items of fashion being made from polyester, most of them are copycats/imitations of popular global brands. Replicas form a huge market not only locally but also globally and it’s not going to end anytime soon. The real problem is when customers unknowingly buy fake products thinking that it’s original. Some of those products are being offered at the price of original brand items. Copycats rarely match the quality and design aesthetic of the original products. They do not last long, are very uncomfortable and may not fit well. My experience is that any popular global branded products available locally that is neither Mtumba (second hand) nor being offered in high end franchise shops, is a Chinese copycat.

 3. Very Expensive High End Shops

 The Kenyan fashion market has seen an increase in the number of international brands setting up shop locally. Store 66, Mr. Price, Woolworths, Bossini, Levis and many others are now accessible in the capital Nairobi and some in Mombasa. We also have other locally owned or franchise shops dealing in high end fashion items. The quality of the products offered in the shops is very good while others sell international branded items. The stores also look very nice and the shopping experience they provide is impeccable. However, you need to break a bank to afford the good stuff being sold in this shops. Despite the high prices, local market for luxurious fashion items is there if the “rumored” expansion of middle class is to go by.

 4. Untrustworthy On-line only Sellers

 The internet has changed the way we do shopping. Kenya has not been left behind. In the last few years, we have experienced an increase of fashion products sold online mainly through facebook groups and online market places. Some of the popular facebook groups for sellers and buyers include Sokokuu (118K), Kilimani mums marketplace (305K), Sokohuru (306K) and Nairobi Online (131K). In addition to the facebook groups, independent online sellers have set up facebook pages where they update buyers of new products and also take orders. The most popular e-commerce market places include jumia, olx and pigiame. Instagram too is picking up.

The biggest set-back facing the online sellers is trust. The online market places and e-commerce sites have done pretty well especially Jumia. However, the other independent online sellers especially that sell through social media and WhatsApp are hard to trust. Most of them are selling copycats and cheap polyester products. Again, the pictures they use to market their products are not real pictures. The photos are of similar products that are downloaded from the internet. You order a nice looking item but on delivery, the actual products do not match the photos or the description given by the sellers. This has led buyers to stop or exercise caution when buying from online only sellers.

 5. Hustle-full Second Hand Markets

Kenya imports about 100,000 tonnes of second hand clothes a year. This provides revenue to the government and the much needed cheap fashion products for the ordinary citizen. The most popular second hand clothes markets are Gikomba and Toi Market. If you have never shopped in this two markets, then you must be very uptown. Most of the second hand clothes are imported from Western Countries where they have been worn and discarded as donations or sold to flea markets. Despite being pre-worn and given as donations, the clothes are of high quality as most are made by popular global brands known for good quality and excellent designs. The markets provides an easy and cheap route to access luxury fashion items.

Shopping in this markets is full of hustle. Such markets are very overcrowded with sellers, buyers and sometimes criminals. The clothes also are not well sorted and organized for easy selection and scrutiny for holes and stains. This disorganization and chaos serves as a discouragement to buyers especially the ones with better incomes. Dishonest sellers also add pain to shoppers in this markets.

 6. Un-informed Buyers/customers

Everyman deserves to dress smart. It’s natural. The better dressed you are, the more intelligent and confident you feel. In spite of all the free information available on how to dress well, some of us have not taken advantage of it and smartened-up our dress sense. Many times we follow popular trends or dress like Celebs, without consideration to what is good and appropriate for our body. Also, some of us do not understand how, when and where most of the menswear pieces are appropriate to apply. Lack of this knowledge leads us to rely on impulse buying and peer influence.

The easiest route to hack the art of dressing smart is to have a plan. A simple plan that takes into account your body structure, skin tone and lifestyle. The next thing is to identify core items that your wardrobe should be anchored on e.g. a suit, blazer, shoes, dress shirts and outerwear. To arm yourself with necessary information, keep reading fashion blogs, magazines and watch youtube videos by menswear stylists.

 These are just six challenges you will definitely encounter, but I am sure there are others in your mind, please share with us on the comments section below.

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