APiF: Please introduce your business.
Vou Brown (VB): Vou Brown, the first multi-brand, all African fashion boutique of its kind in London, opened its doors to the public on the 27th of July in 2012. It brings together the finest showcase of contemporary, independent, African designer fashion. British born Nigerian Lawyer turned entrepreneur, Liza Vou Goje, Founder of Vou Brown, could see that the time was right for Africa’s rebranding
APiF: How did you come up with the idea of a store that focuses on clothes by African designers?
VB: Despite the myriad of African online boutiques that have emerged in the last few years, Liza could see that there was still a gap in the market and a need for a bricks and mortar boutique that would bring Africa even closer. People admired the clothes online from a distance, but Liza wanted them not only to see but to touch, to feel and experience the rich textiles up close.
After spending a few years in Nigeria, the untapped potential of the fashion industry was glaring: “Visiting designers in the villages and cities, it was clear that the one thing they all lacked was exposure. There was an abundance of talent and creativity that was being overlooked because many of them could not break away from their ‘local tailor’ image while those who had the funds (and often without any design knowledge) to employ them took the credit as fashion designers.”
Though many lacked the training to become internationally renowned brands, there were also many who simply needed a push in the right direction. This inspired Liza to set up a multi-brand boutique where emerging designers could display innovative use of African and Africa-inspired textiles.
Turning a passion into a sustainable business was hard work but meeting fashion marketing entrepreneur Leigh Odimah of Style Canteen was the start of a great working relationship that would embrace the creative and commercial potential of African brands and emerging talent in the UK.
APiF: Who is Vou Brown and what does the name stand for?
VB: When choosing a name for the boutique, we wanted it to be a timeless representation of Africa while keeping it personal. Vou – which means Gazelle – is the middle name of Liza. This is an animal synonymous with African grace and beauty. Brown is a naturally occurring color in Africa. And so Vou Brown was born.
APiF: Which designers do you stock?
VB: We pride ourselves on representing a stylish fashion led edit of women’s wear, jewellery, bags, accessories and lifestyle products. We embrace African fashion wholeheartedly and we do not compromise on quality, accepting only high production values from the designers we work with. As the African fashion industry continues to grow from strength to strength it is our top priority to support home-grown and international talent.
We have a mix of established and emerging designers such as Ituen Basi, Anita Quansah, Bestow Elan, Afromania, and Jodi B. We also stock Babatunde, Afrocessories, Dapri Jewels, Eclectic Chique, GeoD, O’Eclat, Ugo’s Boutique, YouMeWe, Ricotton, Yaganad, Yorobatik, Print Afrique, Grape Soup, and WIAYL. We are also the exclusive stockists of Nigerian designers Ello Doll, TÓTÉ by BOLA OBILEYE, Tye-Tye and Dzyn.
So far the reception since opening has been phenomenal. We have had positive reviews from celebrities, press, stylists and the local community. It has been an amazing start to our new venture.
APiF: Is an online store planned in the future?
VB: An online store is definitely on the cards because so many of our clients spread the word to family and friends who are often in other countries or too far from the shop. Generally though we are aware that people have less time to hit the streets and can only shop outside our business hours and we wouldn’t want them to miss out on the Vou Brown shopping experience.
APiF: What next for Vou Brown?
VB: It’s been an amazing year, we’ll be celebrating our one year anniversary with a birthday event! We’re also taking part in the next Africa Fashion Week London 2013, between the 1-3rd of August, we’re really looking forward to being part of a large scale event. Further into the future we’ll be rolling out a development plan to grow the business, we’ll keep you posted on that!