With 17 years under its belt, one can imagine that fashion house Arapapa has reached the skies. However, for director and chief designer, Santa Anzo, the journey is only beginning, this time into deeper, riskier waters of the international market. Fresh from scouting the markets in US, the fashion designer reveals that this is part of a fresh 10-year strategic business mission for Arapapa Fashion House & Design Studio.

“Our recent showcase at the Coterie in New York exposed us to expectations of the American buyers who are some of the world’s most meticulous and demanding consumers of fashion. We were opened up to new markets and that means new areas of fashion production,” Anzo explains.

Arapapa deals in a wide range of products, including fabrics, corporate or formal wear and uniforms, casual wear, clothing for special occasions, for both ladies and gentlemen. It also deals in accessories like jewellery, bags and shoes.

Re-invention of the brand
Anzo is working hard towards overhauling Arapapa’s production system. Part of her grand plan is to set up a fully-fledged factory, complete with a design and sales centre. This will also mean re-invention of the fashion brand.

“The visit to America meant a lot to us especially in terms of trade, as it was a great opportunity to penetrate more into the US market beyond retail level. We have laid a great foundation. We plan to establish outlets in the US and on the European market,” Anzo discloses.

Arapapa’s target clientele is the middle and high income earners. The fashion house’s products range from Shs250, 000, slightly less than $100, and above. She explains that this, however, depends on level of complexity of the design, as well as price of the fabric to be used. Also the make or buy decision of the client greatly influences the price of the item.

“Stock movement is a very dependent factor especially on seasons, dollar exchange rate as well as economic levels in the country at a given time. We plan to improve business by increasing export levels, expanding our production unit and also establishing new outlets both within and out of the country,” she adds.

Arapapa also plans to diversify their product ranges to suit the market trends, import superior fabrics and high quality already made outfits. Their strategy for the next one year is to open a wholesale business unit to export ready-to-wear clothing to the United States of America and the rest of Africa.

Tricks of the trade
Anzo says as a business, Arapapa puts emphasis on effective communication, building great relationships and accountability at all levels and in all departments.

“We are focused on keeping skilled staff in all areas, with special focus on operations, finance and administration, marketing, fashion merchandising and our design department. I am looking at developing sound operational policies, systems and procedures in all functional areas and as well, consolidate areas of performance,” she spells out her plans.

Arapapa is currently negotiating with possible funders and investors in order to raise the necessary finances needed for the upgrade. “We are a renowned brand that is synonymous with quality.

This also means that we must keep raising the banner. We are continuously sourcing for quality fabric and are currently vetting suppliers of both African and Western fabrics.”

The fashion house’s machinery is also being overhauled to ensure manufacture of world- class products. At the moment, Arapapa employs a total of 36 workers on both full time and those on duty call.

Growing the numbers
Anzo says business in the US is not an entirely new trend for Arapapa since they have been exporting to clients across the globe on retail basis.

“Our production capacity is 600 pieces a month, on average, and this is due to our current manpower, market trends and demand. The high quality of our products and finishing also greatly influenced our production capacity,” she adds.

She anticipates that their capacity can grow 1, 500 pieces per month as they have set higher targets for it, as part of a plan to empower their current staff, both at top management and operational level.

“We are getting inquiries, have more opportunities to show our work most recently in Brooklyn. Our business ambitions are progressive,” says Anzo. Arapapa hopes to expand their production unit, import machinery, fabric and accessories from mainly China and Dubai, then the rest of the world.

Santa’s 3 Ps of business
1. Passion. Never do any business unless you are passionate about it because when the going gets tough it’s your love for what you do that carries you on.
2. Perseverance. Keep focused on the goals of your business regardless.
3. Patience. The reason we get into business is to make money but it won’t come overnight. It pays if you remain loyal to the vision that you have sold to your clients, eventually you will be able to win over a lot of business because we are judged on consistence.