A passion to see more textiles designed by Africans, produced by Africans, and consumed by the world, led Mozambican entrepreneur Wacy Zacarias to launch her exciting company, Karingana Wa Karingana Textiles.
LoA met with the talented Wacy Zacarias on a recent tour to Maputo to find out more.
What does your company do?
At Karingana Wa Karingana Textiles, we design custom prints, we develop artisanal textiles, we have a customisable online print catalog, we create surface design and print textiles for fashion and homeware industry, and we are supply chain managers.
"The African Print Textile Industry, meaning Capulana, Ankara, Shweshe, Kanga, is worth more than 5 billion USD, yet only about 15% of the revenue actually stays on the continent."
What inspired you to start your company?
The African Print Textile Industry, meaning Capulana, Ankara, Shweshe, Kanga, is worth more than 5 billion USD, yet only about 15% of the revenue actually stays on the continent. The Dutch textile giant Vlisco has 30% of the market share, selling 70 million yards of fabric per year at a net profit of 1.5 billion USD making it the biggest seller of African print textiles, this was an absolute surprise and shock to me. Not only that but most African print textiles we consume today are produced in China, India and the Netherlands, and that made me wonder what part of it actually makes it African besides the buyer or wearer?
Fun fact: what we call today African prints are an imitation of Indonesian batik that was brought to west Africa by Vlisco in1852. Vlisco went on to open factories in Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. While doing my masters degree, I intended to do my final project with Vlisco, and went all the way to Helmond to visit the factory. However, about 30 minutes into the conversation it became clear that Africans were merely the people who bought the fabrics to them, they had no interest in our opinions, our culture, our talent, we were just money. It made me angry, sad, but most of all it made me determined to do something about it. I left Helmond without a final project, but with a resolution to create an African Textile brand, that would look at preserving the rich culture of textile production on the continent, that would be sustainable, and would be sourced and produced in Africa. For us by us! Designed by Africans, produced by Africans, consumed by the world.
"Our prints have an authentic African aesthetic - we are africans designing prints inspired by our traditions and cultures. We design luxury African textiles, challenging the status quo, and we give a voice and a platform to African artists to tell their stories through our textiles."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our prints have an authentic African aesthetic - we are africans designing prints inspired by our traditions and cultures. We design luxury African textiles, challenging the status quo, and we give a voice and a platform to African artists to tell their stories through our textiles.
1. We offer prints in diverse textiles and surfaces
2. We allow customization of designs
3. We print small quantities
4. We design, source and produce mainly in Africa
5. We are an Eco Textile Brand
6. We are an African company bringing solutions to the African continent
Tell us a little about your team
We are a culturally creative, multi-disciplinary, innovative team. We are textile storytellers. Our team is composed of 3 elements. Bruna Fondo, who is our newest addition, she is our branding, communication and social media mastermind. She is Mozambican, currently studying business administration in Florence, Italy. Djamila de Sousa, Mozambican, co-founder, Operations Manager and problem solver, is a Textile and Fashion Designer, she studied in Dunedin, New Zealand and Milan, Italy, and her expertise is in textile development, production and management. Her somber personality brings us a much needed sense of calm in the storm. I am the third element, Mozambican, and a Textile Designer having studied Sustainable Fashion. I studied in New York City, London and Berlin. I am the Founder, Creative Director and the visionary. My expertise is in brand management, print design and networking. I have an idea a minute. My co-founder and I are both the CEOs of the company as we perfectly compliment each other to fulfill this role.
"Our target this year is to export to 5 countries in Africa and in the next 2 years be in the European and US Markets. Within the next 5 years we hope to be opening our first textile innovation lab in Africa."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2008 when I created my first company, Woogui. It was a women's wear and accessories eco fashion brand. Woogui began as a hobby and I began by designing clothes for myself, but eventually friends and family started asking me to make clothes for them as well, and as a result Woogui was born. In 2010, the brand won a prize for Young Designer of the Year in Mozambique Fashion Week and that made us very popular, and suddenly there was a need to become formal. In 2012, I closed the atelier we had and decided that the brand should be more ready to wear, and not tailored as that model was not profitable. We began to concentrate more on designing African inspired accessories and in 2013 did our last women's wear collection. We interrupted activity from 2013-2014 as I went to study sustainable fashion. In 2015 when I returned to Mozambique the brand became officially an accessories brand. In 2015 I became a share holder in a company that was geared toward giving consultancy services in the Fashion Industry, in design, production and market placement. It did not last more than a year, but the experience I gained was invaluable. It was also in 2015 that I met Djamila and together we created Karingana wa Karingana Textile. It was just a dream two years ago, and now we have an officially registered brand. Djamila also joined Woogui as a share holder in 2016, so now we share our dreams and burdens in two companies.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I hope that Karingana will become a major player in the African Textile market, and we are definitely filling a gap in that market. In Mozambique alone at least 1 million people buy capulana per year. In Africa that is more than 50 million and in the Diaspora 20 million. We are targeting 15% of market share which is worth 250 million USD. To make that happen we are currently building an online platform and that will be how our prints and textiles will be sold, in Africa and beyond. Our target this year is to export to 5 countries in Africa and in the next 2 years be in the European and US Markets. Within the next 5 years we hope to be opening our first textile innovation lab in Africa.
"We are an African company bringing solutions to the African continent."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love the challenges, so doing the impossible or what other people say is impossible excites me, but mostly I love the fact that I have to find a way to do what I love. It has to be financially viable for me to keep doing it, but I am committed to my dream, so it will become viable, I have no doubt about that. I love the fact that there are two of us on our team - it makes it easier to dream when you can rely on someone that has the same vision. But most of all I love seeing our ideas come to life, when we get samples in the office, we get so excited we do a little dance. We celebrate all our small victories. I also like the freedom and challenge of coming up with solutions for my community, and I want to be a part of the growth and change.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Dare to dream and start your business, you are absolutely capable. We need your vision, we need your dreams, please bring them to life. Africa needs you, the world needs you. Let us women be the unapologetic leaders of African growth.
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Why LoA loves it….
There is nothing quite like dreaming big and then seeing that dream become a reality, particularly when that dream can make a huge difference to the world and the lives of so many others. That is what is so special about the dream of Wacy Zakarias. Her vision and that of her company are poised to make a real impact for the African textiles industry and in the process put many of the continent’s talented artisans and craftspeople on the map. At then same time, she is informing and educating consumers around the world about authentic African textile design, elevating it’s design status and changing the way people view it. She and her co-founder are real game-changers. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa