Visit chic shopping districts such as New York’s Meatpacking District or Paris’ Champs Elysées to find some of the most famous luxury brands of the day, from Chanel to Tory Burch. The majority of them were founded by white designers with a distinctly Western perspective.
Amira Rasool thinks this is a problem. She is on a mission to help African designers establish themselves among American and European designers.Four years ago, she launched her own list of top African designers such as Ahluwalia and her Thebe Magugu. Launched The Folklore, a curated marketplace. Now, however, the company has expanded beyond single-item sales, and will soon announce a new platform called The Folklore Connect that will make it easier for retailers to bulk order from these designers and deliver clothes to new customers. It’s a schedule.
Rasool grew up loving fashion and once wanted to be a fashion journalist. However, when she attended Rutgers University, she became interested in African Studies and she proceeded to the University of Cape Town to pursue her master’s degree in this field. Over time, she realized she could bring her two passions together. has dedicated his life’s work to the social and economic future of black people,” she says. I saw an opportunity.”
She began researching the emerging and bustling fashion industry across Africa, identifying up-and-coming labels such as Nigeria’s Orange Culture and Andrea Iyama and South Africa’s House of Gozdawa. She brought them to her The Folklore Marketplace. This is her website that allows US and European customers to purchase these brands at her 30% commission. However, she soon found it difficult to drive enough traffic to the site to make a big impact on behalf of these designers. To reach a wider audience, we had to connect our customers with large collection retailers, from Nordstrom to cool boutiques. “They already had a large established customer base,” she says.
However, this turned out to be a complicated endeavor. For one thing, African business infrastructure can often be difficult to navigate. Global payment systems like Stripe don’t work in many African countries, so designers can’t receive money in their local bank accounts. Then there is the issue of shipping. DHL and FedEx operate across continents, but it can be very expensive for individual designers to send packages overseas. Even in the US, brands and retailers can get much better rates by sending large quantities of goods.
Rasool spent two years building The Folklore Connect, which provides all the business services African designers need to collaborate with American and European retailers. Designers and brands can apply to join Connect. If selected, you’ll have access to a range of tools, including a shipping system that can save you up to 80% on shipping costs. Rasool says her team is selective about the brands she brings in. They focus on designers who have a strong point of view and create quality products. Some of her brands, such as Thebe Magugu and her Adebayo Oke-Lawal, are already very well known in Africa and are becoming more and more known around the world. But at Connect, she also wants to bring in lesser-known up-and-coming designers. We started with African and Diaspora designers, but many of these infrastructure issues apply to other parts of the world, such as South America. And Southeast Asia,” she says Rasool. “So we are opening up the platform to designers in those regions as well.”
In a way, Rasoul is working to create the kind of luxury conglomerate found in Europe and America. The modern luxury industry was born in Europe 100 years ago.Clothing. Some luxury brands have become stronger through consolidation. For example, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) owns 75 luxury brands, including Christian Dior and Givenchy. Kering owns Gucci, Balenciaga and 13 other brands. This allowed them to build new factories and invest in prime real estate. The Folklore is nowhere near the size of his LVMH, and Rasool has no interest in actually acquiring any of these companies. Still, Rasul believes there are lessons to be learned from big fashion conglomerates. There is power in bringing luxury brands together and sharing resources and logistics.
Rasool is committed to helping African designers grow and bring wealth to their communities, but feels the fashion world misses out when brands have such a Europe-centric perspective. Many African designers incorporate traditional patterns, color palettes and techniques into their work, creating an aesthetic that differs from Western brands. There is a lot of beauty currently inaccessible to American and European consumers. “These designers combine aspects of their heritage and surroundings into their work,” she says. “A lot of it is fresh and new for Westerners.”