Hela Clothing, an ethical and sustainable apparel manufacturer with factories across Kenya, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, has been recognized as a leading example of resilience and ingenuity during the pandemic by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
As part of the Head of State’s Labor Day address, Hela Clothing was described as an innovative company that was able to rise to the occasion and assist with global PPE shortages while protecting jobs in an extremely challenging market environment.
“When the COVID pandemic hit our country, this EPZ Company [Hela Clothing] quickly discovered the opportunity and switched to the production of PPEs and facemasks. By rejecting paralysis and embracing innovation, this company saved over 300 workers from joblessness,” said President Kenyatta.
Hela Clothing is a pioneer in apparel manufacturing in East Africa and established its Kenyan operations in 2016. It has since grown rapidly and is now the country’s largest intimate wear company, accounting for 15% of Kenya’s total apparel exports.
In addition to pivoting to production of PPE, Hela Clothing added more than 2,000 jobs across its manufacturing footprint during the pandemic, provided bonuses to team members, reinstated full salaries of senior staff in September of last year and fully repaid the deferred amounts by December.
“It was an honor to be held up as an example of innovation in Labor Day address to the nation,” said Shameen Peiris, CEO of Hela’s Intimates Cluster, which operates the Kenyan facility. “It is further validation of the decisions we made early-on in the pandemic that ensured business continuity and safeguarded the livelihoods of our employees. And it is a testament to the agility of our team that we were able to identify a growing need and adapt the business accordingly, which in turn allowed Hela to play a small part in global recovery efforts during the pandemic.”
The Sri Lankan company which entered the PPE segment during the pandemic has identified it as a long term pillar of the business. Plans are currently underway to operate a separate factory for the production of medical grade PPE in collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation –a private not-for-profit international development agency, which operates state-of-the-art medical universities across Asia and Africa.
Hela Clothing is a US$ 200 million company that provides sustainability-focused apparel supply chain solutions. The company works closely with global brands, from design to delivery, in the intimate, sleepwear and children’s product ranges. With 10 factories across three countries and a workforce of over 15,000 across the globe, Hela leads the industry in ethical and sustainable working environments.