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RAKHEE SHAH

Bringing Africa’s Textiles to the Global Fashion Industry
Too many African countries were dependent on used clothing imports from Western countries, despite having a plethora of local, talented textile artisans. Kenyan by birth and Indian by origin, Harambean Rakhee Shah discovered the variety of African textiles during her travels throughout the continent. She decided to help bring the vibrancy and unique flare of Africa’s fabrics to the global market. Today, her company Maisha Concept is inspiring the fashion industry and supporting local artisans in the process.

“We want to be the brand that showcases the ethnic African inspiration to the world through Maisha designs, while creating a better life for people less fortunate.”

A Vibrant Vision

THE CHALLENGE. Africa has consistently imported US$1 billion in used clothes over the last 5 years (32% of total world imports in 2016), with Eastern African countries such as Kenya and Uganda having the highest number of imports. The clothing imports compete with local artisans and create an economic system that moves money out of the continent instead of keeping it within local markets. The situation has had such negative effects that the EAC countries except Kenya made a decision to ban imports of used clothes by 2019. Adding to this challenge is the number of global fashion brands that source inspiration from Africa’s textile artisans but choose to source the actual fabrics elsewhere. Driven by her innate curiosity and love of fashion, African entrepreneur Rakhee Shah decided to do her part in revitalizing the African fashion industry.   

THE PROCESS. Rakhee Shah’s interest in fashion started at a young age, as she was particularly close to her father, who manufactured and distributed a variety of textiles. She saw an opportunity to link her African heritage with her design credentials and founded Maisha Concept in 2012. The word Maisha means “giving life” in Swahili and the brand aims to revitalize and celebrate the talents of African artisans and textile manufacturers. The pieces are one-of-a-kind and Shah works with local communities to preserve their rich artisan histories, especially with block printing traditions.

THE RESULT. While Maisha Concept originated in Kenya, it has since grown and expanded into several countries, with its main headquarters now in Hong Kong. The achievements of this fashion and lifestyle brand have earned recognition in notable publications such as Vanity Fair. In a bid to support local communities, Maisha Concept has established a variety of projects to support women and children in Kenya, to improve their living conditions and educational needs, and by providing income-generating projects. It was Shah’s goal to support local African markets while simultaneously bringing the beauty of African fashion to the world. She has achieved all that and more with Maisha Concept and is focused on the brand’s continual growth and ability to strengthen textile industries.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MAISHA CONCEPT

Maisha is best known for its rich, vibrant fabrics which have been physically sourced from various corners of Africa. The brand’s identity has been steered by a global understanding and is aimed at the globally conscious consumer. Maisha Concept works with small, independent artisans in a bid to support the traditions of local communities and preserve ancestral knowledge.

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Inspiring the World through Fashion

ABOUT RAKHEE SHAH

An African Entrepreneur Inspiring the World through Fashion

Rakhee Shah is third generation Kenyan by birth and Indian by origin. She inherited her love of textiles from her father and was constantly surrounded by rich colours, prints and fabrics growing up. From an early age she was designing and stitching pieces for self-use. She has a Master of Science, Finance and Accounting from Cass Business School at the University of London and experience in sales and marketing.

Her education, work experience, and fashion-oriented childhood were the perfect combination for creating an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2012, having spent eight years in private banking in Kenya, London and Hong Kong, the fashion-loving Shah decided to follow her heart and launch her own label, Maisha Concept. Shah has been be able to travel the world, meeting diverse people, embracing different cultures, and gaining exposure to a variety of local art and fashion. Her travels sparked her desire to link her African heritage and contemporary design credentials to create a unique lifestyle and fashion brand.

“I hope to bring awareness through my designs about a part of the world where I come from, which is untouched by most, where over 50% of the population live below the poverty line, but is nonetheless bursting with raw talent that should be recognized.”

As an African entrepreneur, Shah has invigorated parts of the textile industry in countries like Kenya, and also in places like Jaipur India, where she draws much of her inspiration. She’s committed to supporting local artisans and introducing her designs to both local and global markets. The brand is growing fast and sources inspiration and fabrics from countries that have a rich textile tradition.

I AM A HARAMBEAN

Rakhee Shah believes it is a privilege to be a Harambean:

“It is a notable privilege to be part of the Harambe family. Harambeans are global African game changers and being part of Harambe exposed me to an abundance of opportunities. Being a Harambean was a pivotal point, meeting inspiring individuals with common vision of driving Africa’s growth.”