Buy something African.
Whether you're a designer, a stockist, or a general fashion enthusiast, that's the best piece of fashion advice you'll hear this year. Africa is the next big fashion trend. Want proof?
How much do you buy from Africa?
If you said "I don't know," you're not alone. Not for lack of interest, Africa is a place that most Western consumers just don't know much about. The media is only recently starting to feature stories about its commerce, culture and economic trends.
It's 2015, and yet there are no African brands selling in most North American stores, and where the raw materials are African, that message is not well-delivered or even sought-after.
In the world of fashion, this represents a massive opportunity for fresh fashion ideas, business and growth. If you had bought into the notion that there is nothing "new" left in fashion, this is a reality check.
"Part of the magic of African brands lies in the continent itself, which is still hidden from the spotlights of the connected world."
In fact, there are three massive areas of '"newness" in fashion: technology, sustainability and Africa.
Africa is ready for trade, and its potential is massive. As of June 2015, African countries held six of the 13 spots for the world's fastest growing economies.
The problem is that many of us are just not aware of the local market.
Luckily, e-commerce platforms like Kisua make shopping for African brands easy. Founder Samuel Mensah comes from a business and banking background and has a sharp focus on well-made designs that are fit for anything from cocktail parties to boardrooms.
African businesses have a lot to offer as production partners, too.
Newcomer brands like Oliberte have capitalized on African innovations in manufacturing technology. Oliberte produces in Ethiopia with Hafde Tannery, one of the most progressive and sustainable leather tanneries in the world. Oliberte is noted as the world's only Fairtrade certified footwear factory. It's recent collaboration with trendsetter Hype Beast to design a part of its collection was notably well-received.
Africa has powerful brand stories
Part of the magic of African brands lies in the continent itself, which is still hidden from the spotlights of the connected world. Powerful brand stories are taking the world by force, and Africa has no shortage of fascinating history, culture and stories. Stories brought to life with skilled production and quality raw materials make for memorable and significant business propositions.
Part fashion brand, part social enterprise TAARIK designs and hand-looms scarves employing traditional methods and motifs, and offers a coveted viewpoint for the new-world luxury market, where movements towards humble luxury and "luxuriously sustainable" designs are afoot.
And then there's Vogue, who chose Brother Vellies as one of its 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners. Founder Aurora James combines luxury with sustainability, social enterprising and African craftsmanship.
I first stepped foot on African soil earlier this year during my trip to Tanzania. Richard Dowden was spot-on to write that newcomers to Africa "often find themselves suddenly cracked open." During my three-week stay, I spent time shopping in Tanzania, purchasing from businesses that are producing deliciously unique goods with local people and methods at the heart of their corporate style and culture.
My visit cemented the reality
As an undisputed new frontier for fashion, African businesses will grow and disrupt the market with an army of talent the world has not yet met. Smart businesses are establishing long-term partnerships and investments in local trade that are built on sustainability and trust.
Buy something African. Your wardrobe and business will be all the better for it.
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