In 2013, a Russian businesswoman, Evgeniya Khromina, moved to Nairobi, Kenya to establish Panâh a luxury and international fashion production house. Khromina and co-founder, Persian fashion designer Morteza Saifi, previously lived in New York, which is one of the top four of fashion capitals in the world.
Saifi has worked with several of the world’s leading brands for more than twenty years and wants to find other challenges that will create social opportunities for those around him. The tendency of people who pay more attention to ethics is increasingly rising in America and they are starting to look for places in the world to start the clothing business. Haiti and Bolivia are some of the countries that have been planned to set up ethical clothing production houses and have finally decided to open in East Africa. The location is amazing because it is along the Indian Ocean which makes shipping easier, more labor and has aspirational consumers with high income.
Panâh and List of Customers at International Level
This production house provides product design and development, resources, and manufacturing services for global African fashion brands and other. Their clients include Edun, a label started by U2 frontman Bono and his wife Ali Hewson; The Swedish brand Elsa and Me, Lemlem, was founded by Ethiopian models Liya Kebede and African luxury brands such as Mille Collines, Adèle Dejak, and Katungulu Mwendwa.
The couple, Morteza Saifi and Evgeniya Khromina are committed to the label they serve with their social mission of employing and improving the lives of young and disadvantaged women in Kenya. This company emphasizes transparency on the manufacturing process and the safety of employees. This was especially important in the midst of a tragedy such as the collapse of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza building in 2013.
Panâh and The Environmental Mission
Ethical production means providing a safe space for their staff, paying them above the minimum wage, providing free breakfast and lunch, and offering training and skills development opportunities. The raw material must also be sourced from sustainable ingredients and handled in a way that does not endanger the environment.
Running a sustainable business while implementing this standard, however, comes at an additional cost. Khromina said that “Obviously we did not come here looking for quick profits. We came here to pursue a bigger dream – to create a factory that is beneficial for workers where they will get skills and get their salary. The whole world recognizes that Africa does not need special treatment or subsidies, Africa needs opportunities. ”
Running a business was challenging because most management responsibilities falling on Khromina and Saifi. Coming from a very different rhythm and culture, namely New York, this duo struggled to enter into the Kenyan business environment. First, they had to wait until after the March 2013 election to set up a business. Then when they moved to Kenya, they assumed it would take two to three months to start operating but were delayed until six months.
The long-term plan, Panâh hopes to expand its client portfolio, with an increasing design for services among local and international brands. In addition, the bigger vision is to start to produce their own designs and products and sold internationally.