Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


August 12th, 2014

The Passion of PANAH – Making Luxury Fashion in Kenya – FACTORY

Having met Panah Co-Founder Evgeniya Khromina in New York some years back before her vision was established I am now able to say I am truly honoured to have met her. Firstly I am grateful for her supporting AFG at our Fashion Africa Conference – the Nairobi edition, but also am intrigued and inspired by her vision and drive and focus in establishing Panah which when we met was just an idea. I am truly excited and cant wait to see how t grows and to visit the site in the upcoming year.

But for now let us introduce Panah to you.

Panâh is an AGOA certified fashion production house based in Nairobi. The production house which provides consulting, sourcing, and manufacturing services for global and emerging African fashion brands. Panâh offers capacity building programs in production of luxury, quality apparel and accessories and provides ethical employment opportunities to women and youth.

Panâh facilitates sustainable economic and social empowerment within the fashion industry and their employees take pride in producing luxury apparel that is made in Africa and acclaimed internationally, empowering the human story behind the production of luxury.

Their specialities include Dress Making from dresses and blouses in light to mid-weight cotton and silk, tailored jackets and shirts to soft accessories. With services in design and product development, pattern drafting and grading, sample-making, production and more.

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But lets go deeper and hear from the minds behind the company with an informative interview. We wanted to know more and am sure you will be interested to hear more too.

AFG) We absolutely love what you have set up in Kenya but do quench our thirst for understanding and let us know what brought a Russian lady and her Persian partner  to Kenya in Africa via America ? 

PANAH – I would like to answer this question by telling the story of my partner and I coming to Africa.

Morteza and I were inspired by projects such as Ethical Fashion Initiative, SOKO Kenya, Wildlife Works  and their sustainable approach to the production in the fashion industry and the long lasting impact it can have in elevating the lives of those engaged in its supply chain. This mission to create a rewarding experience of sustainable production brought us to Africa.

Morteza Saifi, Panah’s Founder and CEO, has worked in the fashion industry for more then two decades. During these years he launched his fashion brand “Morteza Saifi”, an avant-garde women’s clothing line based in New York.  Later he held several high executive positions within the industry. His most recent position was as Executive Creative Director at Vince Camuto, where he directed the design, development and production of the multi brand fashion company.


AFG) What inspired you about Kenya to make you give up your NYC life for Nairobi life?

PANAH – It was inspiring for me to work on this project from its infancy, and put to work my experience in marketing and business in a company with social drive.

For us Africa is the land of inspiration and opportunities. Generations of designers have been inspired by African arts and crafts. And now the new generation of young African designers are emerging in the global market bringing their African heritage to the global fashion capitals and aspirational audience.


AFG) So how easy was it to set up a production business in Kenya? What paperwork did you have to cover and experience do you need to do so?

PANAH – Setting up business in a different country is always a challenging experience.  It usually takes much longer then you plan or expect. When we came on our research trip back in 2012 we were very optimistic about setting up business in three months. When we returned to Nairobi in 2013 it took us 9 month to open the production facility. The paperwork is extensive and covers business incorporation, environmental assessment of the project, business and export licenses and much more. The biggest challenge is that there is no time frame for these procedures. You have to adjust to the local timing. Though this time allowed us to get to know local designers, artisans and women’s groups we are working with now.

I would recommend coming with an open mind and learn as much as possible before you make any decisions.  Always follow the legal procedure and be patient.

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AFG) What would you say are the positive things to having a production house in East Africa and what are the negatives/challenges ? 

PANAH – East Africa is a strategic location and is experiencing a booming development of infrastructure. We are witnessing an unprecedented interest and investment into its’ manufacturing industries.

Companies like Edun, SUNO NY are the pioneering brands with their mission to facilitate trade with Africa. Now many fashion brands are looking into producing in Africa, pushing the region forward to be a manufacturing hot spot.

I would say the biggest challenge is sourcing quality materials; fabrics, interfacing, components and fixtures. It is crucial to find the distributors and develop a reliable relationship.  This does not happen over night and requires research, time and financial investment.

Again be open minded and resourceful.  Take what is available and create something exceptional.

AFG) What exciting projects have you worked on already and what do you have planned that you can share? Such ascollaborations etc etc

PANAH – We are working with a New York based brand, Elsa and Me, which focus on women empowerment.

Maja ….. The founder of Elsa and Me approached Panah for its high standards in quality and ethical values.  This was an important opportunity for us to provide consistency and quality in production for a brand that was producing in New York. We worked on the pattern, ensuring a perfect fit; improved the finishing of the garment by paying attention to details that are important to fashion savvy cliental. Maja was very happy with the result and decided to be our first client.

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We are also working with Mille Collines on their recently launched “Executive Collection”, women’s lined jackets and skirts produced by Panah. We have received great feedback with regards to the fit and quality. We also collaborated with Katungulu Mwedmwa on production of her collection for Adele Dejak, an African luxury accessories retail store and Mofti, a newly opened boutique that caries local designer brands both in Nairobi.

We are being approached by many more brands for production services and collaborations on projects, proving that we are on the right journey.


AFG) What would you say to any budding designer who is planning to produce In Africa? And what advice would you give to any fellow entrepreneurs about setting up production in Africa?

PANAH – It is possible, with patience and commitment!

Take advice from local entrepreneurs and leave your unrealistic expectations behind. Be open.  Be patient.

It will not be without challenges.  So be realistic.

And remember by producing ethically in Africa you are participating in creation of the sustainable supply chain where the people involved get the recognition they deserve.

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Well…. we are inspired and encourage you to get in contact with them to learn more about their luxury product made in Kenya.








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