Sustainable and ethical men’s clothing brand Koy Clothing was founded by brothers Alastair and Jimmy Scott, who grew up in Kenya. The business was incorporated in the UK in December 2016 and became the brothers’ full-time occupation when they received an investment from a hedge fund in London in April 2017.
The direct-to-consumer and wholesale brand combines kikoy fabric – a 100% cotton textile dyed in Kenya with locally produced dyes – with luxury European fabrics to produce a variety of men’s clothing. The products are made in Europe – Turkey, Tunisia and Italy.
The brand offers a range of formal and casual shirts, pants and jackets, in a range of colors, within the “made to measure” option, as well as a tailoring service.
Koy Clothing wholesalers to 16 independent stores in the UK, as well as Wolf & Badger online. In September, it will be stored on Johnlewis.com. It also sells through its own website, which generates around 50% of total sales.
Internationally, the brand is sold on the Zalando platform, in several independent boutiques in the United States, in various luxury safari lodges in Kenya and in a luxury clothing store in Nairobi called Little Red. Retail prices range from £ 35 for a bow tie or cap to £ 279 for a blazer.
Koy Clothing donates 5% of its income (equivalent to over 50% of profits) to two main causes in Kenya: the East Africa Character Development Trust and Wildlife Conservation Projects.
Drapers meets with co-founder Jimmy Scott to find out more.
Why was Koy Clothing founded?
Promote the beauty of Africa, its breathtaking heritage and culture through classic, timeless and enduring fashion.
Does it plan to expand in the UK?
Before the pandemic, pop-up events were an important area of growth for us, as was wholesale. But it has gone from more independent resellers to more online platforms. We sell in Joules’s third-party online marketplace, Friends of Joules, and will be sold on the Jarrolds Department Store website within the next two weeks. We will consider focusing on independent stores again if the shopping street picks up and retailers start buying again.
Internationally, the United States is a huge growth area for independent wholesaling. We just signed with brick and mortar retailer The Society Boutique in Georgia.
Europe is another area of expansion, but Brexit has put a big drag on growth in Europe. Online is the safest way to grow because you can scale it.
We thought about opening a flagship store, but it wouldn’t be for a long time.
What makes Koy Clothing ethical?
Africa has so much to offer and while many choose to give back, some choose to exploit it. It is our promise to value what this magnificent continent has given us. We do this by donating 5% of all sales (not profits) to projects within Kenyan communities, helping people, place and wildlife.
We also have our hand beaded belts made in Kenya by a group of talented Maasai Mamas – mothers based in the Maasai Mara of Kenya. [The company does not directly employ staff in Kenya].
For example, Janet, who bead our belts in Kenya, helps her husband provide for their family of seven children, including school fees, clothing, food, water and medical bills. She also supports her elderly parents – throughout her beadwork. The older we get, the more we can help support people like Janet.
In the UK the head office is based in London and my brother and I are the only employees. Before Covid, we had a commissioned marketing team, but they are not directly employed by us. We handle everything from accounting and logistics to marketing, branding and public relations.
What makes Koy Clothing sustainable?
Whenever possible, we use plastic-free, environmentally friendly, reusable and also recyclable packaging.
It is also our ultimate goal to have as many of our products made in Kenya as we believe this is the best way to support the country and its economy in the future. That’s the end goal, and it’s something we’re working towards. We started by producing everything in Kenya – the idea was that everything was done there. However, we couldn’t get the quality we needed.
We could get a bespoke blazer locally, but when you want to get 200, they unfortunately couldn’t do what we needed there. We had to move this production in 2017, but we are constantly sampling. We have tried every possible factory, but every year and every season we have samples made there and want to achieve quality production.
There is a lot of investment in textile development in Africa, but it is not quite at the clothing stage yet. Hopefully it will be someday.
On the environmental side, we are already sampling with more environmentally friendly fabrics, such as hemp and lyocell, because these fabrics use less space, energy and water to produce.
What materials and processes were used to create the collection and its packaging?
We incorporate a traditional Kenyan fabric called kilkoy in all of our designs. Kikoy is a 100% cotton fabric that is dyed and woven in Kenya using locally produced dyes. We then ship this fabric to various countries around the world such as Italy, Turkey and Tunisia to then combine it with other fabrics such as British Wool, Linen, Woven Pique, Oxford Cotton and serge.
Kenya made plastic bags illegal in 2017, which gave us the inspiration to reduce plastic packaging as much as possible. It is not easy to do. It’s not cheap, and it’s not always effective, but it’s the right thing to do, and as we all know, the right thing to do is usually the hardest thing to do.
After researching the best alternatives to plastic, we finally found an eco-friendly, non-plastic, recyclable, semi-transparent, splash-resistant, and reusable fabric option called polypropylene non-woven bags. This fabric is very soft and looks elegant. We then added handles and button clips to make them very useful bags to reuse.
How do you think the pandemic impacted sustainability in fashion retail?
The pandemic has turned people away from other issues, such as global warming. However, it also taught people that the unthinkable could really happen, which in the long run could cause consumers to take sustainability more seriously.
How did Koy Clothing deal with the pandemic?
The pandemic had a big impact on our revenue due to the loss of wholesale orders and the cancellation of 11 of the 12 pop-up festival events that we had booked for 2020. But we believe every cloud has a liner silver, and to stay positive and look for other opportunities, that’s what we did. We have been set up online to support us in this difficult time.
We focused on growing our online business through organic and paid social media. For example, as the founder of the brand, I started creating personal videos while on lockdown to share on social media as well as mailouts to previous subscribers and customers – browsing our new collections and describing them. new designs and additions. This has allowed us to keep our personal communication flow with our clients to replace our pop-up events, where we typically see our clients face to face.
We also considered joining new online sales platforms, such as Zalando, which we launched last year.
What are Koy Clothing’s future plans?
As I mentioned earlier, Africa is an endless source of inspiration. Currently, we only use Kenyan fabrics and give back to Kenyan communities, but Africa is our oyster and we want to take inspiration from other countries on the continent and incorporate their culture and fabrics into our designs, like the beautiful ankara fabric. from West. Africa.
Another example would be to incorporate the beautiful blanket fabric made by the Basotho people in Lesotho into our designs. My brother and I lived in Lesotho at a very young age before moving to Kenya so that is very close to our hearts as well.