American expat startup strives to make “ethical, sustainable and innovative” fashion in Kenya

Zuri founders
Zuri's founders, Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Miller. Photo: Zuri

A Nairobi based startup is working with East African craftsmen who create fabrics using a wax-printing technique called kitenge to create single pieces of clothing.

Zuri was founded by American expats Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Miller. The name is inspired by the Swahili word mzuri, which means good, and the company strive to embody this ethos in everything that they do.

“Ethical, sustainable, innovative fashion made in AfricaLike any great love story, we knew at first sight. Sandra wore the dress to a wedding where Ashleigh spotted it and immediately thought: twende kazi (let’s get to work)!

“We firmly believe that sustainable economies develop from businesses that operate fairly and ethically and create products that people want. Having lived in Nairobi for a combined eight years, we’ve seen how much both corruption and aid can distort markets, resulting in wasted resources and unsustainable livelihoods. We hope that by paying fair wages, sourcing locally, and making a product that our customers truly love, we will be helping to support a long-term, sustainable economy in Kenya.”

Zuri‘s founders, created a pattern for an outfit that can be worn as a dress, a skirt, a tunic, and a coat, with the concept being you could have one versatile garment that would be easy to pack on a trip and reduce the number of garments needed.

The design has proved popular in Kenya as well as in the U.S, and since its launch last year, the company has been growing fast in both countries selling several hundred products every month.

In fact, business has been so strong, Zuri recently had to move into a larger factory to keep up with demand.