The question isn’t who is going to let me. It’s who is going to stop me.
Meet bright eyed wide smile 25 year old June Njeri. June is an actuary cum designer. She holds a Bsc in Actuarial Science from the University Of Nairobi. By day, June is a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk at the organization that she works for (Actuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs) and at night, she is a budding designer with a flair and a key eye for detail and runs her design outfit ‘June By Design’.
June describes herself as an ambivert. An extroverted introvert.
Simply put, she likes being around people, but she cherishes her time alone binge watching movies and enjoying a good bottle of wine from the comfort of her apartment that also doubles as her design office.
She tells me that she is the true definition of beauty and brains (but with classy and well stitched outfits). I couldn’t agree more. She adds that she is a chicken lover and could eat chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner if it was up to her.
We talk about how she stumbled into design.
June By Design was accidentally born when she realized that she loved clothes – as do most, if not all females. Since she was in uni and on a student’s budget, she could not afford to buy new clothes at the drop of a hat. So she simply re-stitched her old clothes – those that had sat in a closet for a while – and the embellishing having hand stitched item by item saw her worn clothes take a new life of their own.
June’s re-designing of her clothes was simply out of boredom as she had spare time on her hands in between classes and she needed something exciting and fun to do amidst all the studying.
Her friends thereafter started loving the ‘new’ clothes and made inquiries on where she got her clothes from. ‘Most people are not shy on spending on well made clothes. Clothes that suit a person’s style and are made in good taste appeal to everyone young and old, male or female’ June tells me.
The idea of her own design outfit was thus born. She took to her social media pages – both Facebook and Instagram to share pictures of the new clothes she had and even sought some of her friends to model the clothes she made.
She also invested in a good photographer and in a website domain to build her brand. Brand visibility and credibility is key in this business after all. In retrospect, budding designers do not find it that easy to cut through the designers social class. More so in Kenya. It takes time, patience and a lot of hard calculated work. Plus the visibility and referrals.
As June By Design grew, June also grew mentally in business and realized that she needed an extra set of hands to handle the increasing number of orders via her social media accounts – whenever she posted a wonderful piece of her own or that of her clients, there would be inquiries on the cost of the fabric and cost of the labor and sometimes she would not get back to the person on time.
June in no time started getting the visibility she needed and she was also doing breakfast show interviews or late night interviews on local TV channels all the while reporting to her day job on time and doing her business as usual. She needed a dedicated assistant to handle inquiries, shop for fabric and also schedule delivery of orders once she was done sewing.
With time, her team has since grown to include a motorbike rider who does the delivery to the client at an extra fee wherever they are (within Nairobi and its environs), and a tailor who is solely focused on creating magic from a fabric and taking the client’s measurements…basically bringing a particular concept that the client wants to life.
She mentions that the assistant she had has since gone back to fashion school and June is back to juggling the different roles as before (Perhaps this is a silent call for a new assistant?)
I ask June whether a client has ever asked for a refund or publicly rubbished her work. She tells me about the one time a client sent her a screenshot of a particular outfit she had seen online and wanted done, but it was not executed to her liking.
The client kept changing her mind about the design of the outfit and nit picked everything, and June had to eventually put her foot down. Respectfully. She coincidentally later on spotted the client wearing her June By Design outfit and overheard her getting compliments for it.
It seems this business is not for the faint hearted and needs one to be flexible but tough skinned. A delicate balance which June believes she has garnered over time. She has since stopped taking screenshots that she believes her tailor cannot deliver exactly as is. June By Design embodies class, elegance, sophistication and finesse all which she strives to deliver through her unique pieces.
What next for June By Design? June foresees that by 2020 she will be a household name, and that wearing June or JBD in short will be associated with urban culture. She tells me she has barely scratched the surface and wants to even own a special boutique with her own unique pieces both for men and for women too – something for her close knit client base.
Before we wrap up the interview I ask her something that really makes her laugh. Who pays more? Is it the men or the women? Definitely the men! Women always want a good bargain. No woman has ever turned down a bargain. But the women keep coming back especially corporate women. More so for the Olivia Pope outfits, complete with cap and all.
Facebook: June By Design
To view her work: https://www.slypixmedia.com/photography/item/?June_By_Design