Kenya’s “Uber for fashion manufacturers” Ethnic Brand raises $500k seed investment from MAGIC Malaysia


The Ethnic Brand, a Kenyan startup that wants to be an Uber for manufacturing, has raised $500,000 from Malaysia’s Magic Accelerator to bring manufacturing as a service to global artisans and fashion gurus.

Ethnic Brand, an offshoot of Alex Mativo’s E-lab which was recycling obsolete electronic devices by turning them into bespoke Jewelry and eradicating e-waste, will now provide virtual factory services for fashion brands and artisans globally.

“We believe that the informal sector is the heartbeat of our economy thus, we aspire to bring such artisans all over Africa under the Ethnic network so as to improve their livelihoods through social and economic inclusion which is now possible only through our platform,” said Mativo.

As part of MAGIC Accelerators 3rd cohort, the Ethnic Brand was among 30 teams selected globally. Each team will receive $ 500,000 and the opportunity to set up in Cyber Jaya, Malaysia to help them tap into the Asian Market.

Ethnic Brand uses mobile phones and a USSD platform to connect highly skilled artisans living in slums across sub-Saharan Africa to global fashion brands. The virtual manufacturer aims to work remotely to help fulfill orders ​for thousands of manufacturers globally.

The firm aims to work with top fashion brands across the world looking to Ethically manufacture their products and reduce the carbon footprint caused by fast fashion. Firms using Ethnic Brand are expected to reduce the costs of sourcing material and labor as well as marketing.

The Ethnic brand is creating a virtual network of factories and skilled artisans across the world complete with a logistics platform to offer its manufacturing as a service solution. These will make manufacturing as easy as shopping online. All a fashion brand would have to do is upload a design pack complete with product details such as digital renders, fabric choice, colors, sizes or different variations.

The Ethnic Brand will do the rest and deliver the product at their doorstep.

“The real benefit of this business model is that it capitalizes on several expensive inefficiencies in the current fashion business model, namely excess materials, factory downtime, complex supply-chains, the oversupply of stock, warehousing and waste disposal. This makes the new business model a winner in sustainability terms, as it utilizes down-time to use up excess materials and lowers the entry barrier to manufacturing in the fashion industry,” said Mativo adding that these efforts will safeguard our planet from the horrendous effects of climate change.

The Ethnic is looking to disrupt manufacturing in the fashion industry through ethical and sustainable production methods. This offers more transparency to the end consumer and also creates unprecedented earnings for millions of artisans who are currently living below the poverty line as a result of fast fashion and cheap labor. The reduced inefficiencies and overhead costs will lead to lower retail prices of major fashion brands.

The Ethnic Brand will launch a beta later in the year with different factories ( In Africa and Asia). It also aims to partner with the social commerce startup Nanasi to give new fashion brands a platform to set up their retail businesses and distribute their products across multiple social networks and high traffic marketplaces.