The internet has revolutionised business,allowing nicheAfrican brands to reach global consumers
The rise of the middle class across the continent; the fact that Africa is home to several of the fastestgrowing economies in the world; the emergence and popularity of large luxury fashion malls; and the increasing global interest in African products, from homeware and furniture, to beauty and clothing, means burgeoning opportunities for independent designers. And with production costs rising in China, African countries have a real opportunity to seize manufacturing customers by offering competitive labour and manufacturing costs to global brands.
“I’m hearing whispers about Ethiopia,” says Loincloth and Ashes founder Anissa Mpungwe, who is based in South Africa (see case study, page 40).“From a manufacturing perspective, Ethiopian companies have a lot of support from government. Also, Kenya is a hub for manufacturing. One of the companies we’re in talks with is Soko Kenya – they manufacture for ASOS and Vivienne Westwood.”
Mpungwe, who founded Loincloth and Ashes in 2008 with a sewing machine, now employs a team of pattern cutters and seamstresses, runs a studio in Pretoria, and sells online to customers in Europe as well as Africa. The internet, she says, has revolutionised business for designers like her, breaking open traditional sales methods and allowing niche African brands to reach global consumers.