African fashion retailers raised local luxury’s profile. What’s next?


Industrie Africa is working with local designers to deliver direct from their studios to the consumer. “We have the agility of a marketplace model,” says founder Nisha Kanabar. “We are not holding stock because that’s not good for designers. It sort of paralyses their ability to have control over their inventory. Designers are able to take off quantities – or increase them.”

Young African designers need to develop robust foundations, says Birimian founder Laureen Kouassi-Olsson. “It’s not a question of just being capable of producing the right quantity at the right time… When we look at the industry, there are a lot of initiatives, opportunities, companies, putting the spotlight on those brands without working really on their deeper inner infrastructure.”

Investment helps, however small the initial amount. Jendaya has raised £150,000 in the past 18 months to kick-start its business, with investors ranging from Game of Thrones actor Maise Williams, to Roberta Annan, founder of the African Fashion Foundation. It also benefitted from some impressive names on its advisory board, including Rotimi Akinyemiju, former COO of Moda Operandi, and Omoyemi Akerele, founder of Lagos Fashion Week. Federico Marchetti, former Yoox Net-a-Porter Group chairman and chief executive, provides mentorship too, helping the Jendaya team prepare for a funding seed round later this year. Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, has also provided advice and feedback.

Unlike The Folklore or Industrie Africa, Jendaya also stocks international brands, including the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga, bringing them to the African consumer and market. Customers worldwide can shop African luxury brands on the Jendaya platform.

Community-first approach

Multi-brand retailers are seeking to create a supportive environment where young African brands can benefit from creative advice, such as how to shoot a good campaign and how to develop a line sheet. “You can’t have the retail component without the community focus because you’re trying to create regenerative prosperity within our industry and regenerative growth as an industry,” says Kanabar. “It’s not just about shifting the global perception and stereotypical aesthetics, which I think is something that we all know. It’s about creating a framework through which to navigate and grow and use it as a platform for learning.”

Beyond fashion and luxury goods, these retailers are integrating themselves into the community and developing a media presence through their platforms. Industrie Africa works with regional freelancers who often write content for its site. The Folklore Group has launched an online media platform that features editorial content about the African and diasporic design industry. Jendaya started out as a pure content platform, spotlighting African brands. Now it’s poised to become very much more — and lead the way in developing African fashion talent.

Clarification: Updates 14th paragraph to clarify that The Folklore Marketplace, which launched on Thursday, operates as an aggregator. Prior to the announcement The Folkore fulfilled orders via importing and wholesale. (8 April 2022)

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