How Regalia started in balcony of hostel

Co-founder David Gachie says influencers ignored them but consistency paid off

In Summary

• In a tough economy, industrious youth employed themselves through a clothing line

• It was started by three students but one left. One of the other two relived the journey

Regalia co-founder David Gachie during the interview
Regalia co-founder David Gachie during the interview

I recently stumbled on a fashion hub while searching for a suitable art studio, where I could do painting classes.

Upon entering the store, a splash of vibrant colours and tie-dye patterns greets you.

Welcome to Regalia.

Here, I meet David Gachie, one of the founders and brains behind all this. In my inquisitive state, I wanted to learn more about how Regalia came to be. And Gachie indulged me.

Who are the faces behind Regalia and where did it all begin?

David Gachie: Regalia started with three university friends in May 2021. Joseph Kinyua, Newton Kiiru and I, David Gachie. With the high rate of unemployment, we started it as a side hustle, solely dealing with the tie-dye pattern, otherwise known as tie and dye.

In our first production, we began with 10 shirts and seven different types of dyes. We called this the Mosi collection.

On our first sale, we managed to sell only three T-shirts, not so bad for a newbie. The three of us lived in the same student residential area, so the production used to take place behind our balconies.

After graduation, I got a paid internship in the Ministry of Education. It was during the launch of tablets in primary schools by then-President Uhuru Kenyatta.

My two colleagues and I were assigned 24 schools, and we would visit at least two each day. Our work comprised teaching the teachers on ICT concepts, software installation and servicing the tablets.

I actually loved the job, but you know the government and their delay in payments, which I depended on for transport and basic upkeep. Joseph also got a job, too, but later on, he quit and decided to focus on what we had brewing behind our balconies, Regalia apparel.

Newton ended up dropping out of Regalia but still remains a close friend and supports us however he can. Sounds familiar? Just like how Apple, a leading technology company was founded by the late Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, only for Ronald to drop out of the company.

How did Regalia grow from there?

After the Mosi collection, we did not relent and only wanted to penetrate the market even more.

Basically, Regalia means a special set of clothes indicative of royalty. We started by reaching out to influencers through emails and Instagram messages. Here, we would send them PR packages for them to sample and if they were impressed, they would tag our brand in their respective socials.

This was a challenge because we would send like 50 emails and only get back like two responses. Some of the influencers who believed in the dream include Ronoh and Aunty Nimu.

Other strategies we used in putting the brand out there in the market were pop-up markets, such as Pop Up and Chill, and Instamarket. Events such as Blankets and Wine and the currently running Nairobi Design Week (March 9-17) were also other places where we showcased our merchandise. Here, we got more recognition and made good sales.

We also have a few billboards erected in different parts of Nairobi. One is in Westlands just near Alchemist, the other one along Kenyatta Avenue and also one at the Machakos country bus stage. The goal is basically to make our brand reach out to everyone.

Paid Instagram ads have also been resourceful in the marketing and sales process.

What is the production process like?

At first, we used to buy plain white T-shirts or sweaters then and tie-dye them. But with the growth and demand of the business, we now buy our own fabrics and stitch them to our own clothing.

We have our very own fundi, Sam, who is also the lead designer. We do the tying and dying just right outside here, and you can see where we have hung out the clothes in the open for them to dry.

We also work hand-in-hand with embroidery experts to stitch the brand name Regalia in all our pieces. Our pieces include hoodies, college jackets, T-shirts, tote bags, crop T-shirts, sweatpants and sweatshirts. Quality clothing that is accommodative to all body sizes for men, women and children.

What challenges does Regalia face?

We work with cotton, and Kenya does not have any functional ginnery factory. So we have to source and import our fabric, which tends to be costly. The process of raising capital also is not light work since we mostly depend on bootstrapping, kujinyima na biz ikurudishie mkono. Acquiring skilled labour is also a challenge. Actually, ukipata fundi mnoma, lazima umshikilie.

Who are some of the people you’ve worked with?

We’ve worked with a number of corporate brands, such as Tusker, Nokia, KopoKopo and Firmbridge. The thing with corporates is that they’re used to the plain and boring merchandise. But not to worry, tie-dye is here to save the day. Like for Tusker, we did black and yellow tie-dye patterns in line with their Oktoberfest theme. Corporate gigs are actually a good source of capital for us, and we use it mostly in buying machinery and fabric in bulk.

We's also worked with celebrities, including Sauti Sol. We actually designed their outfits in last year’s Solfest. We’ve also worked with Mejja, Dr Reign and ASAP Royco.

You said corporate deals bring in the most money, so why not focus on corporate merchandise?

We started Regalia as a brand by the people for the people. As much as the sale of corporate merchandise brings in a huge amount of capital to the business, we still would like to stick mostly to retail and not wholesale.

What does the future hold for Regalia?

We opened our first physical shop just last year in March, where we are currently. So of course, I would love to see Regalia with more physical outlets at a national and even global level. I mean, we go to malls and stores such as H&M, Mr Price and LC Waikiki. So yeah, in future, we would love to see our clients go into the same malls to shop at Regalia.

The brand is also working with other fabrics, such as silk, as we are mostly used to working with cotton. Our upcoming collection also comprises new pieces, such as boiler suits, office suits and silk lounge sets for the ladies.

The idea behind the official suits is creating something that would be suitable both at the office and also for after-work activities, where someone wouldn’t feel the need to change into something else.

With Regalia’s expansion, we are also thinking of the design and production of tie-dye furniture as you can see with these chairs and curtains.

We are also looking forward to collaborating with other brands and growing our audience. Who knows, maybe in future, we will have fashion runways for Regalia clothing just as we see with popular fashion brands, such as Armani, Louis Vuitton and Versace.

What is your parting shot, and how can we reach Regalia?

Consistency! It takes time and, as cliche as this may sound, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can find Regalia on Instagram as ‘Regaliapparel’, email [email protected] and our website .

You can also pay us a visit here at Regalia, which is situated at Embe Creatives, Maji Mazuri Road in Lavington, right behind Jaffery Sports Club.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star