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 & Castleto 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.