Helping African Brands Enter the Chinese Market
Last week, hundreds of fashion enthusiasts gathered in Kigali for the eagerly awaited Kigali Fashion Week. Known for its thriving fashion industry that has produced fashion brands that are becoming globally renowned such as Haute Baso and Moshions, Rwanda has become an increasingly important hub for African fashion. Kigali Fashion Week, which is held twice annually since 2015, as well as its sister event, Rwanda Fashion Week, attracts an international audience of top fashion industry players, which is helping members of Africa’s fashion industry to gain global connections and exposure. Importantly, Kigali and Rwanda Fashion Week are much more than just events – they are also platforms where emerging African designers can gain the support and connections that they need to grow, and ultimately, they strive to create jobs and empower youth in under-served communities in Rwanda and across Africa.
This year’s Kigali Fashion Week went even more global, as it was part of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – also known as CHOGOM – which was held in Rwanda and attracted 23 local designers and international brands as well as models from across the globe.
Kigali and Rwanda Fashion Week are not the only African Fashion weeks helping put African fashion on the map. South African Fashion Week has been a pioneer in developing closer relationships with the global fashion network in Europe and Africa through collaborative and creative ventures because of its reputation for quality and innovation. South African brands, such as Maxhosa, have become global best sellers and given glowing reviews at Milan and London Fashion Week. South Africa Fashion Week has also developed digital solutions such as digital and live eventing to maintain and grow connections with industry stakeholders even during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also known for promoting sustainability throughout the entire fashion value chain, for example using locally produced fibres to forfeit carbon shipping.
Nigeria’s existing thriving creative industry, which has produced Nollywood and Afrobeats and Afrobeats musicians that are globally renowned, such as Burna Boy and Wizkid, has contributed to Nigeria’s Africa Fashion Week playing a crucial role in putting African fashion brands on the global stage and on the backs of some of the world’s biggest artists. For example, in the music video of Brown Skin Girl, Wizkid’s hit track featuring Beyonce, Beyonce wore Adama Paris, a Senegalese fashion brand that has taken Paris Fashion Week by storm. Coincidentally the founder, Adama Amanda Ndiaye, also founded Dakar Fashion Week.
In addition, there is also Swahili Fashion Week, which largely showcases and supports designers from the East African region and ‘Hub of Africa’ Addis Fashion Week, which is both an event to market African brands internationally and a hub to link Ethiopian designers with buyers, manufacturers, and international media to ensure the growth of Ethiopia’s fashion industry.
The African diaspora is also playing a key part in boosting the rise of Africa’s fashion industry. For example, Edmon Kamara, who is a London-based, Sierra Leonean-born menswear stylist, has accumulated an extensive and powerful network in the London fashion scene from his years working in the luxury fashion industry, founded Fashion Industry Insiders (FII). FII is a fashion and lifestyle accelerator platform that has brought his influential network together to educate and grow a future generation of fashion creatives. The FII network has travelled to Sierra Leone on several occasions to train and connect with Sierra Leonean fashion creatives and host glamorous fashion shows with models and designers from across the African continent.
African fashion – taking the global fashion industry by storm
These events are clearly paying off. African fashion designers are now regulars at Paris, Milan, London, and New York Fashion Weeks and have received many awards. One remarkable award-winning designer is Folake Folarin-Coker. Her brand Tiffany Amber has particularly become popular during the New York Fashion Week as well as being displayed in London, New York and Paris. At the 2021 Milan Fashion Week, even the opening show featured five African fashion designers including Fabiola Manirakiza from Burundi and Karim Daoudi from Morocco.
London’s world-famous Victoria & Albert Museum is currently hosting until April 2023 an ‘Africa Fashion exhibition to celebrate and explore ‘the vitality and global impact of (Africa’s) fashion scene’ which they stress is ‘as dynamic and varied as the continent itself.’
Bringing African Fashion to China
Africa Reimagined is working to bring Africa’s vibrant fashion scene to China. Given that China’s luxury consumer market is the largest in the world and its appetite for foreign fashion brands is still growing, China presents a huge opportunity for African fashion brands who are looking to explore foreign markets. We also have the know how to help African brands succeed in China’s vast and lucrative consumer market.
In 2019, Africa Reimagined brought Maxhosa and Mafi Mafi to the 2019 China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) where both brands’ products flew off the shelves and received a huge amount of attention from professional and non-professional attendees. South African minimalistic, unisex brand Artclub & Friends that is gaining global attention due to its popularity with some of South Africa’s biggest artists, was also displayed in the Africa Reimagined booth at the 2021 CAETE alongside Rwandan handmade leather shoe brand, Maison Gil and Kenyan handmade leather sandals and accessories brand, Oye.
In August this year, Africa Reimagined will be attending, promoting African fashion brands at Asia’s biggest fashion expo, CHIC, held in Shanghai, China’s fashion capital. Contact us to find out how Africa Reimagined can support your brand with participating in CHIC 2022.
Freddy is a research intern in Africa Reimagined. He focuses on Chinese market research and wishes to assist African high-end brands to achieve success in China. He also has interest in international relations. Freddy is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Sena Voncujovi is a research and policy analyst at Development Reimagined. Voncujovi specializes in global health issues, Japan-Africa relations, and China-Africa relations. He served as the Editor-in-chief of Peking University’s Africa Think Tank (PATT) during his master’s in International Relations & Politics as a Yenching Scholar. Voncujovi previously advised the Ghanaian government for the 2019 TICAD 7 Conference held in Yokohama. He is the co-founder of Jaspora, Tokyo’s largest community of African diasporan diplomats, changemakers, professionals, students, and business people.
Fikayo Akeredolu is a finance and research analyst at Development Reimagined. She is studying for a PhD in Politics & International Relations at Oxford. Her research focuses on how African countries can better leverage economic and political power. She has experience in financial products from Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters. She is also a Schwarzman Scholar.
Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion.
Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team through liaising with African brands, creating graphic content and other external outputs at AR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French
Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst, and he applies his Trade Policy expertise to AR’s work. Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.
Jinyu is a dual-degree Master’s student at Sciences Po & Peking University. At Africa Reimagined, Jinyu produces research to foster better mutual understanding between African clients and Chinese consumers.
Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.
Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.
Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.
Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE’s International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.