I could say yes and no. We’ve been talking a lot about it and what could make it better but it is somewhat still lagging behind. The industry is starting grow again through the efforts of the government and the private sector since leather dropped in the 80s. Then it becomes how to support the private sector especially the small and medium enterprises and how to boost them.
And if you disassociate the leather industry from SMEs then it will be just a few individuals controlling everything and the prospects will not go that far. I say this because SMEs play a big role in the industry such as through job creation and sustainability. That’s why future prospects should deliberately involve SMEs.
Has you stance on Fashion Shows also changed?
Fashion has been there for a very long time in Africa but the approach to ensure successful growth in terms of revenue depends on the product. It’s a little different when it comes to accessories. We didn’t say we would never do fashion shows but you have to look at both sides of the coin. For us, trade shows have been more effective for our brand than fashion shows. But there is always time for everything. For the first time we’re participating in a fashion show. We partnered with another designer to showcase our bags at the UNCTAD 14 that started earlier this week.But I have to say, the ‘Design your Own’ Concept really speaks for itself… it’s the first thing I saw on your website!
We came up with the idea in 2015 and it comes from the fact that consumers base their buys on what is already available on the market. It’s never been about the customer demanding what they want or how it will be made. What makes ‘Design your Own’ so interesting is that you have the ability to develop your product in conjunction with Honey from the Moon. So we have started it with leather products and it is going very well despite the fact that we haven’t promoted it widely just yet. We have intentionally kept the buzz around it quite low.
We really don’t want it to get out of control. We want to first build our human resource capacity because it requires a lot of skill and people who will interact with the individuals looking to create their own product. The second reason is, we’re looking to develop a platform where the client can view their designs visually in terms of 3D or illustrator. At the moment, we are just doing it with a rough sketch on paper but in future we are aiming to do it on a very wide angle. I believe it will be one of the best service providers that won’t be just available at our workshops but also in the client’s comfort zone.
And it won’t just be limited to individual clients, but for larger scale projects such as shop owners which will also build up our export range.How long would the process take from idea to finished product and what price range are we looking at?
It’s between 10 days to two weeks. We want to make the system as effective as possible by reducing the waiting time for your finished product.
Concerning price; right now there isn’t a standard fee. We’re approaching it based on how complicated the design is or the level of intricacy to develop the price per project. In the future it will be a prime service, where people will have their own designs and enjoy the creation process, under a certain model that will allow people to subscribe easily to it. This model will also have a more predictable pricing feature.
It definitely isn’t an easy process and it definitely is challenging. But at the end of the day, if it’s a challenge that makes you stand out from the rest it is well worth it.Will you allow people to come with a picture of an already existing bag to copy?
No, strictly no. This is an avenue to create original products.
We started this because customers would come to us asking for ‘custom made’ bags. Then at one point it started to develop from an idea to a functioning concept. People have been really excited and in the past six months we’ve already made over a dozen custom-made bags.
I hope you have a policy that MY idea can’t be reproduced for anyone else! It is my bag
The policy is that we become co-owners of the bag… after all your name will be on the bag! We are in the process of developing a model for the event that a particular design proves popular or gains momentum… we would become partners and they would have shares in the bag.‘Design your Own’ concept isn’t the only exciting thing we’ve heard from Honey from the Moon. We’ve also noticed you’ve branched into furniture.
This idea also started from the need I mentioned earlier. We shop from what we find and lack the access to things we actually want. Everyone needs furniture but it comes down to two main options; either very expensive ones that are imported or poorly constructed pieces that aren’t durable. We started with our needs but later on we took the idea to our partners and now I work with a very strong team of designers to create furniture collections. We mostly do made-to-order but we also work on a collections basis. The furniture is minimalist and functional with a modern look that will available at our studio. We’ve even did some of the first pieces from leather since leather is something we specialise in. The last one year has been a learning process to understand furniture manufacturing and we’ve had a very positive outcome.So I guess we need to address the elephant in the room…Why the name change?
The brand was carrying all these ideas and it has reached a place where our vision and output is growing. We also want it to be a brand that can hold its own internationally and has a strong emphasis on social responsibility. We felt that we needed a stronger brand that would reflect these changes and still remain in line with our style.
Changing hasn’t been easy. If you search for Zeebaan and Honey from the Moon, you’ll notice the former has more traction and presence. It takes a lot of patience and work to start changing the narrative. It requires a lot of dedication but I have given all credit to the supportive people who have helped us through this rebranding journey.
But why the name ‘Honey from the Moon’?
We thought it was poetic and for the mystery aspect it brings. It draws you in to know more.How have your existing customers responded to the change?
We were very careful during the transition time in 2015 because we didn’t want anyone to get confused. So that damages are kept to a minimum on your journey to better growth.
You also worked with Africa Handmade in 2015 … what was your experience?
We were very excited about this and as I always say never miss an opportunity for good exposure. Afrika Handmade gathers different collections from different designers and showcases them to an audience. I can say that they have done a good job in displaying the creations and at the same time they organise industry related talks. The process to link designers to different individuals, from manufacturers and different fields such architects and interior designs. Creates a platform to network and do business.
It was a worthwhile experience and other designers should look into getting involved. There is definitely benefits to this; when you have an audience to see your products, its exposure and the platform for people to get to know your brand. When people can identify with your brand they are more likely to talk about it and hence the power of word-of-mouth.Clearly 2015 was a busy year for you
I could say so, and so is 2016. We are still working hard to create a strong brand. This year we have committed ourselves to also showcasing internationally… we haven’t done so much locally this year.
How are you getting involved in the international circuit?
Again this wasn’t an easy process but exposure helps and when people talk about your product in a positive way and can relate to it. It opens up opportunities for you. At the same time there has to be personal approach where you as a brand have to be proactive and look for these opportunities. I also have to commend government as currently they are doing quite a bit to promote Kenyans at international exhibitions and hosting trainings.
You don’t hear a lot of people talking positively about government…
Maybe people just aren’t aware of some of the opportunities out there but I can say that in the past three years there has been some improvement and there are government organs that ARE working hard. One of the trade shows we are showcasing at in New York this year is through the government’s nomination. There are opportunities out there, it’s just knowing how to utilise them and having patience.Any new collections?
We are still promoting the Aero collection which came out late last year. [Check out the Aero bag here and here] It was inspired by aerodynamics and flowing, airy feeling that comes from traveller admiration. It is made to be easy for travel and can easily fit into the plane overhead luggage. The chic collection is completely hand crafted… even the stiches were done millimetre to millimetre by hand. It takes three to four days to create one bag and this had an impact on the price range. It’s a little pricier than our previous collections but it still remains true to the brands core values of affordable. It starts at KShs10,000 to KShs35,000. We believe leather products should be more available to everyone.
I believe this is one of our best collections. So we are going to develop them, make them more crispy, as we begin to visualise the new collections.Final Thought: lessons you’ve learnt through you rebranding phase that could help other designers who are thinking about doing the same.
- Get it done – you have to start doing it practically because it is a learning process. You’ll see whether you belong to the model of business, if it feels like you’re on the right track and whether the brand is stronger and or viable because of these changes.
- Have a strong product ready – to make the step one really work, you have to have a product before you spend a small fortune marketing the new brand and products. As I mentioned in the first interview with TDS, we stressed that the investment comes later. Product development, test market it with your family and friends. When you believe that it has a strong response then you can look for the money to invest in the marketing.
- Work on a vision – what problem are you solving, what new thing are you going to bring to the market?
- What is your social responsibility – are you just making a product and a living from it or are you working side by side with the community to make positive social impact? Creating more jobs? Skills transferal?
If you have these things you will be able to grow your brand after you make a change.