Authentic, Bold & Ethical: Koko by Khakasa
Every now and then, we come across a brand that bewitches us with its consistent quality and unique creations. KoKo by Khakasa™, is one of them. The Kenyan brand founded by Barbara Kokonya, focuses on authentic, bold, contemporary, ethical and handcrafted accessories such as handbags, purses and jewelry designed to elevate your every-day style. Whether you’re looking for an elegant leather tote strong enough to carry your laptop and work supplies or a cross-body handbag that matches your “pretty in pink” philosophy, KoKo by Khakasa™ caters to all tastes and lifestyles.
Barbara Kokonya, KoKo by Khakasa™ founder and managing director, is a true powerhouse of a woman who is not afraid to work hard and face the challenges of a male-dominated profession and environment: the sports industry. “Prior to going into entrepreneurship, I worked in the sports industry for over ten years. I was the first female to hold the position of General Manager at both Cricket Kenya and Kenya Rugby Union. I also consulted for the International Cricket Council in the dual position of Host Liaison and Event Coordinator for Kenya and Zimbabwe during the 2003 Cricket World Cup,” she told Fashionomics Africa.
In 2012, Barbara went on to found Very Chic Limited, a brand solutions company focused on corporate promotional branding and merchandise based in Nairobi. Based on her long-standing experience as a event coordinator and general manager, along with the knowledge she acquired from her joint Executive MBA degree from the Maastricht School of Management (NL) and the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute, she aids companies in strengthening and growing their market niche and standing out from the crowd. Having worked with renowned brands such as Huggies, Kimberly-Clark, East Africa Bank and Armada, Barbara’s next business move started shaping.
“In mid-2017, I began playing with the idea of launching my own fashion and design brand. A brand which would not be restrictive but allow for more creativity and, ultimately, also increase revenues streams for the company. The KoKo by Khakasa™ concept was born in late 2017 and officially founded in 2018. It is a registered brand under the parent company Very Chic Limited,” Barbara explains. “Subconsciously, I think I’ve had an interest in fashion, accessories and design since I was around fourteen years old, but I only acted on it two years ago.”
Since its early beginnings, KoKo by Khakasa™ has found, developed and honed its very own unique style. “Kenya has many diverse cultures, and this brings about a certain uniqueness to the country. This has allowed me to have a design thought process which is equally diverse. I draw my design inspirations from family, different cultures, places and circumstances. Basically, everyday life and people. At times, we also focus our designs on filling a certain need or gap or on people we admire.”
As a brand, KoKo by Khakasa™ is strongly committed to two very important factors: creating a sustainable brand while leveraging on local skills and resources and making the KoKo by Khakasa™ experience a memorable one. “We are intentional about sourcing and purchasing our raw materials from within the country from suppliers and workshops that complement our strong principles. Our team of artisans is currently made up of four to six women. Our working partnership with the artisans provides them with a steadier income. This allows them to plan for their families and homes better, save and create an income by generating projects in their communities. In addition, they have access to training opportunities,” Barbara tells us.
Over the past two years, the KoKo by Khakasa™ brand has been steadily growing and now has a production capacity of 100 to 200 for its assortment of leather products, and around 150 jewelry pieces a month. “We have had good reviews from the different market segments we serve. These reviews praise the authenticity of our products, product diversity, product innovation, use of colour, quality consistency and adherence to delivery timelines. At present our revenues largely come from the national market and a small share from the US.”
With the brand now having entered a new decade, Barbara has big plans for this year and the future. “We spent a large part of 2019 developing designs and prototypes of products which we will be introducing in quarterly phases in 2020. We aspire to be able to have a complete lifestyle range towards the end of the year. We also hope that our diverse product offering will help us to expand and grow our export market not only within the African continent but also to the US and Europe,” Barbara tells us.
The Fashionomics Africa team will be keeping a close eye on the quarterly ranges KoKo by Khakasa™ will be introducing this year – after all, we wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the brand’s beautiful handbag and/or jewelry creations. And we suggest you do the same!