Guest blog by Sandra Chuma
On a recent Saturday morning in Brooklyn, New York, women and a few men jostled to select from rows of racks of brightly coloured clothes designed in African print. There was barely any elbow room as people squeezed past each other; and the shop assistants could barely keep the racks stocked fast enough. The long lines at the checkout registers were evidence people were spending lots of money. This was the scene at a recent pop-up store hosted by online store Zuvaa.com, which brands itself as ‘A Global Marketplace for African Design’.
Zuvaa’s founder Kelechi Anyadiegwu says she started the business because she had a love of African textiles, but she “often found it difficult to find modern and trendy African Inspired pieces” in the United States.
African print, which is popularly known as Ankara, is also known as Dutch wax print. It was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market, but has long been popular across the African continent. Kente cloth, which has its’ origins in Ghana’s Ashanti Kingdom, is also a sought-after textile on the African continent, particularly in West Africa.
In recent years, these textiles have gained popularity across the United States and Europe, aided in part by the growing African population in the diaspora; designers featuring the textiles in their fashion collections; and celebrities such as Beyoncé, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani wearing designs using these fabrics.
This newfound interest in African print presents enormous opportunities for African entrepreneurs. And the advent of online shopping presents an opportunity for shoppers across the globe to have access to African print clothing from anywhere on the African continent.
Websites such as Zuvaa, A Leap of Style and Neo Bantu provide an easier way for African designers to break into the overseas market. Through websites such as these, entrepreneurs have access to a ready-made online storefront, along with in-built marketing through social media. The compensation models vary between websites, but most take a percentage of the sale price for facilitating the sales.
And with maxi skirts retailing for on average US$125, and dresses retailing for US$200, the opportunities are endless for African designers and entrepreneurs.
Sandra Chuma is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker based in New York. She is the founder of a production company focused on producing multimedia stories for and about Africa, and in particular about African women. Her passion is telling stories that challenge the negative stereotypes and narratives about Africa typically presented in western media. Sandra is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School. She is a long-time entrepreneur, having previously been a business strategy consultant working with organizations in North America, Europe and Africa. --- Follow Sandra WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER