African Luxury Brands To Keep On Your Radar

Two firms have partnered to commit $5 million annually in support of African fashion brands.

Female-led venture capital firm Birimian and European private equity firm Trail announced last year that they would be partnering up to invest at least $5 million a year in selected African fashion houses and brands.

Birimian is the first operational investment company dedicated exclusively to African luxury and premium heritage brands. The firm aims to scale these brands into global luxury houses by supporting them with production, financial planning, and distribution.

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Yeba's The Friend pouch
Yeba’s The Friend pouch | Image via Instagram @yeba.official

On the other hand, Trail is offering its support by leveraging its network of partners, advisors, and stakeholders. “We know African heritage is going to be a big thing,” said Trail chairman Xavier Marin. “If you look at music or fashion, there’s a lot of interest there.”

That already seems to be the case, since in 2016, the African Development Bank reported that Sub-Saharan Africa’s textile and clothing market is estimated to be worth $31 billion. Many international brands have also been inspired by African fashion.

It’s just that African brands and designers have struggled to reach the same amount of commercial success as international brands due to limited infrastructure, production capabilities, and access to international buyers and press.

The next generation of African designers

Loza Maléombho's design for Beyoncé's film Black Is King
Loza Maléombho’s design for Beyoncé’s film Black Is King | Image via Instagram @loza_maleombho_shop

Birimian first launched in 2021, supporting four brands including Christie Brown from Ghana, Yeba Olaye from Belgium, and Loza Maléombho, as well as Simone et Élise from Côte d’Ivoire.

Maléombho has dressed the likes of Beyoncé, Solange, and Kelly Rowland. Meanwhile, Olaye wants to build “the African Celine,” inspired by Phoebe Philo’s timeless designs while working at the fashion house.

The firm chose these designers and their brands based on their social media engagement and existing international sales. With over 80,000 Instagram followers and $600,000 in annual revenue before the investment, Christie Brown certainly fit the bill.

Danai Gurira dressed by Christie Brown at the Nigeria premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Danai Gurira dressed by Christie Brown at the Nigeria premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Image via Instagram @danaigurira

Continuing with the search for high-potential African designers, Birimian has also partnered with the Institut Français de la Mode for a program that offers brands 12 months of strategic and operational support. The goal is to scale up and prepare the brands to take off in the international scene.

The latest batch of participants include Armando Cabral from Guinea, Endelea from Tanzania, Lafalaise Dion from Côte d’Ivoire, and Pichulik from South Africa, among others.

The future of African luxury brands

Trail’s Marin is optimistic that African heritage brands will become big in the next five to ten years. “We are building up an investment company,” he told Vogue Business.

The Lupita and the Alegria dress by Simone & Elise
The Lupita and the Alegria dress by Simone & Elise | Image via Instagram @simoneetelise

“It’s not a fund where you buy and then sell piece by piece. We [Birimian and Trail] are going to create a Maison, where we’ll build and grow companies and brands.”

The Ethical Fashion Initiative has also been investing in African brands since 2009, seeking to integrate African artisans into the global fashion supply chain. In March 2022, the EFI backed nine African designers to present at Paris Fashion Week.

There’s still a long way to go, but with this increase in support for young African designers, it’s just a matter of time until they become a staple in the international market.

Banner image via Instagram @christiebrowngh.

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