A fresh face in Pensacola’s bustling fashion scene, Josie Wachi, is as elegant and smart as the clothes she designs. After discovering her love of the peaceful yet upbeat coastal town during a vacation, Josyline Murakaru moved to Pensacola from Huntsville, Alabama. Hardly a hot new up-and-comer, Josie has become all the rage – and suddenly - for her clothing label, which has indeed become her pseudonym. “Many people couldn’t pronounce my African name so I became the brand, and the name caught on easily.”
In the hierarchy of top-name designers, Josie is a novice, albeit on the fastest of tracks. Over the past 2 years, the Kenyan-born, USA fashion-educated designer has been steadily engaging sophisticated women who appreciate her style and runway designs. Named the 2013-2014 Emerging Designer by the Alabama Fashion Alliance, Josie is becoming a driving force in fashion in the south since the brand’s inception in 2013. The label gained momentum that year when she debuted her first mass product, the cobalt-blue Josie Wachi Stretch Jean. The designer’s first pair of jeans have little Josie Wachi logos under the hem that you wouldn't see unless the jeans are rolled up. "The jeans have been a favorite with wearers,” Josie says, “because your legs deserve a pick-me-up. It's the most flattering pair and is a good investment because you can really mix and match it. You can wear the pant with a casual tank top or with a nice blouse and flats. There’s no science to it.” Josie Wachi jeans have been featured in several boutiques across the Southeast, and have gained clients in California, Japan, and the UK.
“I always get humbled when I see clients wearing my designs - what she calls “dress to nurture your soul”. Word-of-mouth and social media have been key in growing the label. “It’s built on the fact that women trust other women, “she says. “They let them in on their little secret if something fits well or works for them.”
What is it about Josie Wachi Jeans that can make women wearing the jeans in a room bond instantly? Nutrition and fashion with sustainability. This important combination launched her Josie Wachi app Nutrition Fashion Women in the App Store, in which she combines nutrition and fashion expert tips on navigating how to heal your body and wear clothes that make you feel fabulous.
In less than 2 years, the fashion and wellness arbiter has established herself in the front rank of new designers to watch and wear. Designer, wellness blogger, and, new to the list, author - Josie has a book out about staying away from illness - Heal From Food. “I am inspired by my clients.” Josie’s core clients remain the career-oriented women who are drawn to living a well-balanced life in health, fashion, and love.
The next step for Josie is to manufacture a 24-piece collection and promote it to department stores and get mass orders. A pattern house in USA is producing all of the samples for her second line, and she will fund this through sales of Josie Wachi Jeans. We took a peek at the sketches heading to production and we are excited to give you insider news that the line is stunning, stunning, stunning. It speaks intelligence and power, with a touch of grace and romance. Making a woman stand out alone without judgment of where she is in her life. The party dresses make you feel like you can party like the stars.
“I design for fashion lovers, connecting the beauty of nature and healthy living in addition to cherishing those good relationships.” Josie’s clothes appeal to ladies in their mid-30s to those in their 60s. “Your clothes have to work hard as you do. They have to be comfortable, yet inspiring to you, and what a plus if they give you a boost of confidence! I want to make clothes that excite you once you lay your eyes on them. You know that piece you have that brings compliments anytime you wear it? That’s other people identifying with your clothes.”
As she’ll hit the next mass production with her label, the fashion designer is ready to take in the new plunge - to make Josie Wachi a luxury fashion and lifestyle etho brand. But to have that impact, she says, she is setting up a small social enterprise clothing factory in Kenya dedicated to transparent manufacturing set up with the aim of providing the fashion industry with a manufacturing unit offering quality garments to luxury market standard with social and environmental solutions at the core of its business. “My clients will know where the garments were made and by whom," Josie says. “I will use fashion to uplift and with sustainable development.”
We have become accustomed to fast fashion, which has created a disposable fashion culture. Not only is fast fashion often unethical, it is also damaging for the environment, it is the second-biggest cause of pollution in the world.
Consumers need to start looking to where their clothing is coming from and change their spending habits to buying ethically with an eye for longevity.
Josie is on the right track. She saw that there was a gap in the market for small-scale, ethical clothing manufacturing. Her vision is to raise the awareness of fashion with a conscience. She believes in the power of enterprise as a way to bring people out of poverty. Growing up in Kenya, the sight of children and mothers living in the slums deeply saddened her as she watched them experience extreme poverty. “It is one of the reasons I want to produce the clothes in Kenya. I want my brand to take care of homes in the slums. I want to meet with the people about the challenges they face. We will establish a high tech school and teach the mothers how to work in the eco factory. Through having their own income these women will take control of their own lives and through this, give them the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.”
There's a huge amount of interest that appeal to conscious consumers who enjoy products that contribute to better livelihoods. And consumers are always looking for new things.
It is a very exciting time for Africa both as a creative source for new consumers of luxury, and as the continent is getting support from governments to build supply chain links for fabric and components in order to keep the costs down. The U.S Agency for International Development opened African Growth and Opportunity Act to offer tangible incentives for African countries as they continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. Furthermore, Kenya has created 'special economic zones' that offer tax breaks for light manufacturing businesses.
In the fashion industry, Josie is aware that many overseas factories supplying firms of major clothing brands fail basic safety measures by creating and allowing for unsafe working conditions. An example is the collapse of Rana Plaza on April 24th, 2013. The deadly collapse of this 8-story factory in Bangladesh caused over 1,129 deaths and left thousands of others seriously injured, amputated and unable to work. What is most unfortunate about this tragic event is that it was not the first occurrence of a factory collapse in the past decade.
There have been numerous accounts of child labor being used by large apparel companies in countries such as China, Bangladesh, India, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, to name a few, for their overseas manufacturing. Many major apparel brands use sweatshops where workers are forced to work overtime and while receiving grossly unfair wages. Many clothing manufacturing plants leach toxic chemicals related to the dying and washing of fabric and finished garments into our planet’s waterways. This means that in areas of high population where clean water is not always readily accessible, water is becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking or cleaning.
Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to act collectively together and stop procrastinating. - Leonardo DiCaprio
The Josie Wachi goal of a self-sustaining eco factory will have social and environmental principles at its core - paying fair wages, providing needed social services, a pleasant workplace, and a commitment to limiting its environmental impact. Using hydro electricity in the manufacturing operations to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere will make Josie Wachi one of the few totally carbon zero fashion brands in the world today.
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