The global market for luxury brands from Africa has witnessed dramatic growth over the last five years thanks to events like African Fashion Week New York hosted by Adirée, and endorsements from A-list celebrities like Beyoncé. Indeed, today African Fashion is everywhere.
The exclusion of Africa
However, there is deep confusion about what really makes a product from Africa a luxury product. If we want to be able to market luxury and fashion from Africa, we first need to understand what luxury is all about. In addition, the current challenging manufacturing and production environment contributes to the difficulty associated with making “Made in Africa.” A marker of quality like with work produced in Europe by ateliers of France or leather workers of Italy or watchmakers of Switzerland.
Originally, luxury has been synonymously associated only with brands from the West. In November 2012, Francesco Trapani, head of jewelry and watches division at LVMH Moët Hennessy (LVMH) was quoted by the South African-based business news website, fin24. In the article titled “Luxury Brands Snub Africa,” he said Africa is “still a very small market for us.” Statements like this preserve the distance between the West and Africa as equal makers of quality goods with fine craftsmanship and creativity. Thus, it’s no surprise that for the global fashion industry, luxury products from Africa, or the need to develop Africa’s luxury market is taken for granted.
But this is slowly changing. In early 2017, DeBeers, the world’s leading diamond producers, celebrated the completion of something remarkable. Its first full year of the historic transfer of its center for sorting of rough diamonds from London to Botswana. DeBeers said, “this relocation… has seen the value of rough diamonds annually traded in-country rise.” He explained that the value rose from “under US$1 billion before the relocation, to over US$5 billion.” In 2017, Prada opened its first store in South Africa in the Sandton City mall in Johannesburg. Prada is increasing its presence in Africa by becoming a reference point for the South African clientele and international visitors.
As these Western luxury brands excel in Africa, what will it take for an African brand to enter the luxury market? To build a successful luxury brand? And most importantly, remain a brand for the global fashion industry?
How to succeed in the fashion world
For starters, new codes for luxury from Africa have to be created to uphold African brands in a position of superiority. This has happened a lot in the West. At Adirée, we believe that this is a necessary condition for people to crave for luxury brands from Africa. Adirée also seeks to work with local designers. We help convert materials from Africa into a culturally sophisticated product that rightfully belongs to a superior class of luxury. The founder of Adirée, Adiat Disu, suggests, “Brands from the continent must understand that luxury is not only in price or quality (although extremely important) but in emotional value.”
Adiat continues, “The consumer must be inspired, drawn, and feel as though they cannot live without or be seen without the brand. Diversifying your aesthetic and your marketing initiatives (not limiting it to the continent) will also help brands from Africa to compete globally and appeal to a broader audience.”
In conclusion, she said, “Not limiting your brand as an ‘African Brand’ is understanding what differentiates your brand from those inspired by Africa. Couple this notion with tailored tastes of the global consumer and “Made in Africa” will have a competitive edge over those inspired by Africa (who are not from the continent, including western companies).”
Luxury from Africa must also be multi-sensory and experiential says Isioma of Isioma’s Style Report. It is not only the sight of a Bentley that matters but also the sound of it. It is not only the odor of a perfume that matters. But also the bottle and its colors, so too for African Fashion Luxury Brands. In order for luxury brands from Africa to succeed, there must be a strong human origin and element. It’s not just mixing and matching Ankara fabrics that will enable an African brand to qualify as luxury.
How Adirée can help
Instead the product or part of it must have a human element. For example, the traditional process of creating Adirée. The service rendered by the African brand must be unique as this is what counts. African luxury brands should also tell a story as they create emotional involvement with consumers building an appealing identity.
The strategy for repositioning African Fashion as an authentic luxury fashion brand will require attention to distinct brand identity. Achieve this by with innovative, creative, unique, and appealing products. Along with consistent delivery, and expert craftsmanship. Of course, having an emotional appeal is crucial. But so too is the need for consistent delivery and tightly controlled distribution. We seek to do just that here at Adirée with the launch of our exclusive Adirée boutique. So stay tuned.