I am really excited to introduce our Metamorphosis Collection, a collection that is indicative of a major change at YD. This transition has been both exhilarating and scary but it is a leap that I believe is the best step forward for our company; one that honors our core values of sustainability, socially conscious, earth friendly practices, all while making clothes that bring joy, intention, and love to our Free Range Humans.
There are two prints launching in this Metamorphosis Collection. First is our Emerge print, where you can see the transition from caterpillars down at the ankle, then as the artwork rises up the leg you see their cocoons, and they “emerge” as beautiful butterflies at the top of the artwork. The second print is Buggin Out, a play on words for the idea that once these lil guys are out in the world they all are so unique and gorgeous when you actually look closely at them.
I am excited to formally announce to you first, our own Metamorphosis as a company. We are building a factory in Kenya! A place that has stolen my heart, and become the blank canvas for the next chapter of Yoga Democracy
That's right, we are continuing to vertically integrate our production with our first offshore factory in Naivasha, Kenya. We are actually the people who have hand selected every machine, fabric, and employee. Since we will only make Yoga Democracy in this factory, we taught each sewist how to stitch YD beautifully and efficiently. We showed each quality controller how to inspect and seek out the YD quality standard. We taught each print supervisor and cutter how to use our sublimation machine, inspect each artwork and more. All working toward making intentional activewear the global standard.
Many people have been asking me, “Why Kenya?”
I have always believed in following the universe’s guidance. Last summer, one of our partners was working on a project in Memphis, Tennessee where he was connected with an entrepreneur who happens to also have many projects in Kenya, where he grew up. Over dinner, our partner mentioned he had a really interesting activewear company based in Carefree, AZ and we had a huge difficulty filling our orders on time because our products are made by a very small team. So the entrepreneur mentions that he coincidentally has a great friend who lives in Carefree, AZ who he needs to visit, so he would love to come meet our team to see if he can help us in any way.
After a visit to our factory in Arizona, he invited me to come visit Kenya and decide for myself if Kenya was a good place to bring our production. I was skeptical, to be honest, only because I have been so protective of our production and quality all these years. But I did a ton of research, where I found out there is a major need for jobs in Kenya, which currently has a 40% unemployment rate. I learned there is the “AGOA Act” between the US and many African countries that is to incentivize entrepreneurs to invest in Africa, it allows them to import machinery duty free, and export duty free. Which is a big big deal. There is an even higher level of incentive called an EPZ license which you can apply for in order to import your machinery and all materials into Kenya duty free, then also export duty free, all in hopes of bringing more jobs to Kenya.
So on September 16, 2022 I hopped on a flight to Kenya for the first time… by myself… to meet up with a man who hopefully is a legit entrepreneur that I had only met one other time (in hindsight I realize that is insane but at the moment I was desperate to find a solution, and look everything worked out, okay!!!).
On this first visit to Kenya, I got to see the projects he has going on in the agriculture industry that used truly amazing, conscious, and sustainable practices. I got to meet with the management staff who answered all 5000 of my questions. I met with the workers and asked them questions about the quality of this workplace and how long they had been working there. I met with their fair trade committee who manages a percentage of sales from the company that goes back into the community that is voted on by all the workers. I toured a beautiful women's hospital that focused on safe births for the mother and their babies that their team built with funds from their fair trade earnings. And I toured a boys shelter that was funded by fair trade earnings as well.
I asked everyone I met during this trip, “What do the people of Kenya need?” and every single person answered with one word, “Jobs.”
I also toured a garment factory at the famous Athi River, where most “Made in Kenya” garments are made. I was floored by the state of this factory. The low lighting, the poor floor plan with too many machines in too little room; it was nearly impossible to walk through the factory. I saw them making thousands of name brand garments, tagged to go to popular retailers that even I shop at in the US. This was a true sweatshop. On top of it all, on my way there, our car got lost in a neighborhood where most factory workers live. This was not a safe place for anyone to live or work.
We walked out, looked at each other and humbly said, “We can build them a better factory.”
So exactly one year, and many, many emails and factory visits around the globe finding the most efficient and state of the art machinery later, our YD team set off to Kenya to actually start building out our factory. You can watch the whole rollercoaster of the buildout on my instagram, @haley.byfield in the story highlight “Kenya Buildout.”
Then on October 16th, we had our first 21 employees start their training, where they would learn new skills on new machines, many of which are the first in Kenya. I had all eyes eagerly watching me show them every aspect of each of our sewing, printing, sublimation, and laser cutting machines.
On November 11th, after a lot of learning, hard work and dedication, our team sent out our first 1001 units, “Made in Kenya.” The joy that filled the room on that day was unexplainable. There was so much cheering, dancing, hugging, and pride in each and every one of us. I cried so many tears of love, honor, and joy that day. That is what I want your clothes to be made of. I want you to feel that immense love, pride, and joy that is stitched into every garment when you wear YD.
Each one of these garments says Made in Kenya. That means so much to our staff. It is their opportunity to share their country with the world. If they can show the world that they make high quality, beautiful garments, more companies will bring their investments to Kenya. And if we can make the most conscious sustainable choices for our factory’s workplace, with above average pay and benefits for our staff, then we will set a new standard for what a factory worker here in Kenya will endure for their job and force other factories to follow our lead.
Our team in Arizona is not going away. We are actually going to be able to invest in our team in the USA even more now than we ever have before. We have such a talented group of crafts people who have INCREDIBLE ideas and we just need to free up our time to be able to bring those ideas to fruition for you, while still sending out our orders on time. For the past few years we have not been able to set our creativity free because we have been so focused on the task of filling our orders. My goal is to invest in our USA team not only monetarily but also in a way that is actually building their skills as designers and creators that doesn't plateau or bind them to a sewing machine. My hope is our USA team will grow to be able to design and create more silhouettes, more prints, more solid colors, develop more lucious recycled fabrics and add MORE POCKETS.
So, as we unwrap the layers of this Metamorphosis, know that each piece carries the spirit of our journey, the dedication of our team, and the joy that radiates from the heart of Kenya.
Thank you for being an integral part of our story, and I can't wait to continue sharing this transformative adventure with you.