Calvin Klein signs Kenyan EPZ firm to make underwear

Monday October 23 2017

Workers at the United Aryan EPZ factory in Nairobi. photo | salaton njau | nmg

Workers at an EPZ factory in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

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Top global fashion brands have signed production contracts with local textile manufacturers, raising the profile of Kenya’s export processing zones (EPZ).

Calvin Klein, Arrow, Izod and Cherokee are among the international labels that have signed with Kenya-based firms, according to officials of the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA).

Other brands including Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) started local production in 2014 at Ashton Apparel.

Hela Clothing, a new EPZ firm, is manufacturing Calvin Klein underwear.

The company, currently employing 1,500 workers, is in the process of expanding in what will see it double its workforce.

New Wide Garments is manufacturing Arrow and Izod labels and employes more than 7,000 workers.

Global EPZ produces Cherokee brand of clothing and has 1,500 staff.

Favourite locations

The global fashion brands are looking to source more of their clothing items from Africa to reduce their reliance on Asia-based manufacturers.

Kenya and Ethiopia have emerged as favourite locations as multinationals diversify away from countries such as Bangladesh, one of the largest exporters of textiles.

The bulk of Kenya’s textiles are exported to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) agreement that allows for duty-free imports of select items from low-income countries in the continent.

Increased contract manufacturing in the country is expected to boost exports in the textile industry whose earnings and production has dropped significantly from its peak in the 1980s.

Peaked in 1984

Statistics from the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation shows that the local textile industry peaked in 1984 with 52 mills.

Today, there are 21 mills currently operating at a capacity of less than 50 per cent.