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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

London Trip: Visiting Vou Brown

Londoners are really lucky, they have at least 4 different stores that sell Africa-inspired designs. Vou Brown in the north (Willesden) is one of them. The owner Liza Vou Goje of Nigerian heritage noticed one day that she always went with full suitcases to Nigeria and came back with empty ones. So instead of just exporting European/British goods/culture she decided to import some of her own culture by bringing designs, accessories and interior design pieces back to London. And so the Vou Brown store was born (Read older interview here).

What I like about Vou Brown is that it feels more like a market place and is a totally different experience from stylish hip stores like Soboye or elegant-trendy stores like Sapelle. It is really great to have several stores with different identities that all reflect African Fashion and Africa-inspired designs. NYC - we need to catch-up!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Trending Right Now: Maasai Prints /Tartan/Plaid

Style Sketches
Thakoon 2011
Wan Fam Clothing
Karangis Collections
Karangis Collections
BlackBird Jeans
Adele Dejak
 Strolling through Brooklyn on a sunny Sunday afternoon in November, I realized I had to do this blog post: Nearly every second person - or so it felt - was wearing either a scarf, pants, jacket or carrying a bag in tartan. It was almost a bit overwhelming. Using tartan and especially the Maasai print in collections was done before in 2011 and 2013, but here we go again. Personally, I really like the Maasai shukas. I just got one in red & blue from the Urban Maasai and I am working on making a skirt and scarf out of it. 

How do you like it - are you rocking Maasai prints /tartan/plaid yet?

In case you missed this article - read it here: Tartan and the African Diaspora.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Originality & Diversity: Myriam Maxo

A huge teddy (in French "Doudou") is sitting in a corner of a store. It has no eyes and looks more like an interior design piece than a cuddly toy. An that is exactly the intention of artist and interior designer Myriam Maxo from Paris.

Myriam - the original creator of the African print teddies - considers them as art, sculptures for adults and not necessary toys for kids. She loves the reactions of people to her huge print teddies. Everyone usually wants to touch them! For her it's a way to re-connect people to their childhood via the emotions that the design piece triggers. Creating one of the bears takes Myriam 3-4 hours: dedicated art work as every teddy is handmade. The artist has produced several installations with her teddies at pop-up events, fashion shows, art events etc. 

Besides the teddies, Myriam is also creating flooring, pillows, wallpaper, furniture, lamps: "Through my work, I want to meet and merge cultures to meet a new market, that of the 'ethnic diversity'. I relate to each other through symbols, geometric shapes, colors, graphic shapes and urban areas."

Find out more: 
Sold in NYC at 3NY

First Afripop pop-up by ICAF in NYC

The organization I-CAF - International Coalition for African Fashion - hosted their first Afripop pop-up store event two Saturdays ago in NYC. The mission of I-CAF is to build a global community that supports growth and sustainability in the African Fashion industry. Several designers came together to sell their jewelry, bags, dresses, tees - you name it. It was a really fun event! If you missed it - no worries: The next Afripop pop-up store will open its doors on the 13th of December. It will be a one day event so mark your calendars and follow I-CAF so you won't miss it.

Any designers you would like to see & shop at the pop-up? Comment below!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just Splendid: The new Vlisco collection "Splendeur"

Vlisco is usually good for a wow moment with their innovative, vibrant prints and stunning images. Besides the real splendid fabrics of their latest "Splendeur" collection (splendid Splendeur - get it? ;-), I also noticed that this seems to be the first time that they used a model with curly, natural hair for their photo shoot. Has anyone else noticed that, too? 

How do you like the prints? I can't wait to get a sample and run to my local dressmaker to get something done!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The "Cupcake" Collection by SHE by Bena

 Photography: Charlene Asare  
Models: Kukua Buckman and Daisy Asare-Akoto

This collection by Ghanaian label SHE by Bena is actually called "Skittles" but I re-named it "Cupcake" as it is so pink, fluffy, sweet and girly. I came across these images via Pinterest and just had to share them. Pastel African Prints on a pink background - how more girly can you get? I am not necessarily a pastel color kind of girl, but I do like the aesthetics of this collection and the images are cute and give me good vibes. 

Are you a girly kind of girl? How do you like the collection? Comment below!

Find out more:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Online store Sapellé goes Brick & Mortar

APiF: Please introduce yourself.
Daphne Madinga Kasambala: I am the founder and CEO of the ethical retailer Sapellé. I was born in Malawi. My mum specialized in sewing and I used to make my own clothes. Whenever I made something for my birthday - everyone wanted it. So I thought maybe I can be a designer? But then I decided to leverage my commercial know-how and build a retail brand.

APiF: Can you share some more details about Sapellé? 
Daphne: Sapellé  started 2012 and is an ethical retailer of Africa-inspired fashion, featuring the best contemporary brands from around Africa. Our designers are from over 15 countries. Designers who want to stock with us need to complete an ethical statement and answer questions regarding where they produce, the fair working conditions and their values. 

APiF: Who is your target group?
Daphne: Our products are targeting predominantly women 25 and older. Women that might not necessarily wear minis and are drawn to simple silhouettes and like to buy clothing that they can mix and match with contemporary items in their wardrobe. 

APiF: Why the shift from online only to opening a store? 
Daphne: We started as online store and then in 2013 we tested pop-up stores in small locations with the help of the organization Pop-Up Britain. At our first event we outperformed all other brands.

We followed up with 3 more pop-ups and received an amazing response from people walking by, who would have never considered African fashion. Having been exposed to retailers in my previous job and seeing retailers go under because of high rent, I initially said we do online only. But the pop-up stores changed my perspective.
APiF: Where will the Sapellé store be located? 
Daphne: The council of London started a program in Elephant & Castle to turn Heygate Estates into energy friendly homes, build a park, a community center and an eclectic mix of brands, located in recycled shipping containers - Sapellé  will be one of them. The aim is to transform and re-generate the area like for example in Shoreditch.     

APiF: You are opening a store, so are you confident that the hype around African Fashion is going to last?
Daphne: We have to use the current momentum for African Fashion. Trends move and evolve - African Fashion needs to evolve with these trends. Only then we can move along with it and always present an African touch, an African interpretation.

The store opens today, 4th of October 2014: Elephant RD, London SE17-1LB. The store's Blogger & Press evening will be on the 16th October and the official launch party on the 18th.

Find out more:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interview with Diana Opoti: "Making African Fashion Brands feel accessible"

Afromania by NKWO
PR expert, business woman, fashion enthusiast and advocate for African Fashion Designers - Diana Opoti, based in Nairobi, Kenya, started the social media campaign "100 Days of African Fashion" on Instagram to showcase fashion by African Designers. Today is day 100.

APiF: 100 days of African Fashion - what was the objective of the campaign and are you happy with the outcome?
Diana Opoti: I recently started my Fashion PR consultancy here in Nairobi to represent fashion brands and labels looking to come into Kenya, so I was very keen to create awareness of brands from other parts of Africa. I needed to know what type of looks/brands consumers were likely to be interested in purchasing, the favorable price points as well as shift attitude and get followers to go beyond liking pictures and make inquiries to purchase. I figured if I wore so many "branded" looks it would help raise an appreciation of owning African designer made products.

Also, I noticed that because of the challenges in distribution and retail, most times we see African fashion brands, they are pictured on runways and glossy look books. Most consumers can't relate to this, so I was keen to make brands feel accessible by showing them in an every day setting.
I would say its been a huge success - mostly one of discovery for my followers, but I believe its restored a lot of confidence in designers who've been questioning the success of the "I am an African brand business model".

APiF: Did you actively select designers or did designers send you creations that you then selected for the campaign?
Diana: So during my travels (last 18 months) I built quite a selection of African brands from countries I visited (South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania) so I started the campaign with my own clothes but mid into this, designers started writing, requesting that I feature their brands in my campaign.

by Azrawalji
I have been selective though - brands I feature, whether established, emerging or up new have to demonstrate a commercial positioning - and have visibility online (websites, regularly updated social platforms and open communication systems in place).

APiF: How many days upfront did you plan your outfits?
Diana: Many people ask me this. Truth be told, I dress like most normal people do, for my mood and what the day has in store for me - so more casual looks over the weekends and dressier work looks at the beginning of the week. My partner took my pictures daily - and my team updated socials daily - monitoring feedback and recording it for tallying later. This was important to allow new looks from designers and to stay completely engaged throughout the campaign.

APiF: Not living on the continent - logistically it can be challenging for customers to get their hands on the latest and coolest designs from African Designers. Do you see this changing in the near future and if yes how? 
Diana: e-commerce platforms, concession stores and boutiques as well trunk shows around fashion events are all useful strategies that we can start to explore more purposefully. I'd say marketing should be prioritized to make platforms more visible.The continent already has amazing platforms selling African brands - Sapelle, Kisua, My Asho, Spree, Moonlook - we just need to push more awareness of the new collections and these sites.
Day 100: Skirt by Doreen Mashika

APiF: I have to ask: What was one of your favorite outfits during the 100 days?
Diana: I have so many favorite looks and brands! Important to note - I own the stuff I highlighted - I invest in talent, in beautiful pieces and the promise for the business on the continent.

APiF: What are your future plans? 
Diana: We have specialized campaigns we are planning like Pop-ups and Trunk Shows coming up in 2015. Following 100 days I am launching Diana Opoti's Must-Haves which lists 6 key items for people to buy monthly. I will continue to show 1 or 2 looks weekly of selected designs. An African concession store in Nairobi is something I am keen to explore.

Find out more:


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