The recent boom of online African shopping destinations has provided African designers and entrepreneurs with a host of new opportunities. From luxury fashion designers who have found mainstream success in the international industry, to independent artisans with growing businesses, the world of African fashion is a diverse one — that spans the diaspora.
Still, up-and-coming designers still struggle to get their businesses off the ground. Sites like Boutique Africaine offer support for both emerging and established designers. The forthcoming online marketplace, which will launch this spring, hopes to connect lovers of African fashion with a diverse range of designers from Africa and the diaspora. Franck Hounsokou, the site’s founder, stresses affordability and accessibility when it comes to be Boutique Africaine’s offerings.
“You can expect to see variety and originality in our product offering,” Hounsokou says. “Our designers are coming from all over the place and are mostly members of the diaspora (or Africans living outside of Africa). We have designers from Germany, France and Spain who have enrolled. We’re hoping to see more designers living in Africa as this platform will help them get worldwide recognition and export their products overseas.”
Hounsokou, who is based in Canada and hails from Benin, West Africa, also emphasizes the importance of wearability, especially for shoppers living in the west.
“The number one thing that we’re looking for in designers is the ability to create wearable, comfortable and everyday clothing that can be used in Europe and America,” he says. “This is not a platform to sell pieces that are going to be sitting in the closet. Some clothes from Africa are really beautiful but not really suited for the -30c degree that we see in Canada sometimes. There’s no point in creating an item that can only be worn in Africa.”
While Boutique Africaine’s vendors are selected through an application process, sellers will be given plenty of control over how they chose to price and present their wares. The site also offers advice and guidance for emerging entrepreneurs.
Boutique Africaine charges vendors a 15% subscription fee per item sold, as well as the ability to upload an unlimited number of products of products for $23.00 a month. Vendors who apply to before the sites official launch on April 11th, are also eligible for a discount. The company has taken care to ensure that all transactions will be secure.
Hounsokou also has big plans for Boutique Africaine in the future. In addition to reaching out to indigenous artisans, the site hopes to work with physical locations, as well.
“You can expect pop up shows in various cities in North America and physical stores selling collections from vendors down the road,” he says.
Follow Boutique Africaine on Facebook.