Home » FEATURES » Feature: Africa Blooms Globally Expands The Pride Of African Design

Feature: Africa Blooms Globally Expands The Pride Of African Design


 

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

Young Nigerian Business Woman Brings ‘Made in Africa’ Fashion to the World. By: Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé Toronto, Canada “If it is sink or swim in the fashion world,” writes Fatoumata Ba, “then online and mobile are your life vests in Africa.” It’s a sentiment that might appeal to young Nigerian entrepreneur Blooming Soyinka, founder and CEO of Africa Blooms, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Blooming is a social entrepreneur with a vision that extends well beyond running a profit – rather, it’s a vision of a shining continent ripe with opportunity for those whom the ‘Africa Rising’ story has left behind. She is building community, sourcing her wares from communities facing poverty, disability, gender discrimination and other forms of marginalization. But Blooming is also recasting Africa’s story – one of a continent rich with creativity, talent and resourcefulness. And one that’s finding itself increasingly in cyberspace. We sit down with Blooming Soyinka, the CEO and founder of Africa Blooms, to talk about the future of apparel in Africa, her favourite African designers and explore her vision for a soaring Africa.

Founder of Africa Blooms, Blooming Soyinka. Photo Credit: Pawel Dwulit for The MasterCard Foundation

Founder of Africa Blooms, Blooming Soyinka. Photo Credit: Pawel Dwulit for The MasterCard Foundation

Can you tell us about the vision behind Africa Blooms? From the beginning, Africa Blooms sets out to be a different kind of company. One that not only celebrates Africa and its rich traditions, but we also bring a feeling of connection to our customers through our distinctive designs. Whether with a purchase or service rendered, we strive to bring both our rich cultural heritage and exceptional customer experience to life! At Africa Blooms, we are building communities and transforming lives through partnerships across the African continent. Our goal is to become the premier house of brands destination for African Inspired designs and brands that are proudly made in Africa. By working directly with emerging designers from across the African continent, we offer our customers exclusive, exquisite and robust collections of African Inspired Styles and Brands. Africa Blooms serves as a conduit through which we can birth and empower talents from across the continent. Whether is an emerging clothing fashion designer from Kumasi, Ghana or a leather bag craftsman in Mombasa, Kenya or a footwear maker from Arusha, Tanzania or a fibre artist from Abeokuta, Nigeria… our mission is to provide emerging designers with a global marketplace platform to showcase their designs to the world. Through this, we are improving the lives of the artisans we partner with and thus building capacity across the continent. We believe in ethical and socially responsible way of doing business and we strongly believe that truly we are building communities and transforming lives one designer at a time.

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

Cute handbag by Africa Blooms

You’ve indicated that you want Africa Blooms to sell more than just apparel, but at the moment, fashion is a big part of your business – what is it about apparel that is driving your business plan? Yes, Africa Blooms is not just about selling apparel or shoes and handbags. Our business model and vision extend beyond fashion. This is because fashion alone cannot truly capture and express the beauty embedded in Africa. Meanwhile, one of the fastest growing industries globally is fashion and the African Fashion industry is becoming a force to reckon with. Over the past decade, fashion power brands has been birthed such as Duru Olowu – a Nigerian fashion designer whose work has attracted extraordinary and powerful women in the like of the US First Lady, Michelle Obama. Other fashion designers are Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Mataano, Deola Sagoe, Kofi Ansah, to mention but a few.

Doro Oluwu Courtesy of Afropunk

Doro Oluwu Courtesy of Afropunk

Deola Sagoe courtesy of Fashion Ghana

Deola Sagoe courtesy of Fashion Ghana

As the African Fashion industry becomes revolutionized and globalized, Africa Blooms seeks to strategically position itself as a forward-thinking house of brands where we can showcase the works of these emerging fashion designers that are truly shaping and re-defining the African Fashion industry locally and globally.

Cute tote by Africa Blooms

Cute tote by Africa Blooms

Adorable umbrella by Africa Blooms

Adorable umbrella by Africa Blooms

Cute tote by Africa Blooms

Cute tote by Africa Blooms

Why is it important for you to work with artisans and designers from marginalized communities? Working with artisans and designers from marginalized communities is very important to us. In fact it is this grassroots approach that distinguishes us in the marketplace. Our goal is not just to sell. Our mission is to build capacity across the continent by partnering with these communities and thereby increasing their potential and earning capacity for a lifetime. We don’t believe in the aid handout model. It’s demoralizing. It is certainly not sustainable. Ever heard of the quote, “Talent is Everywhere, but opportunity is not”? These communities don’t need money, rather we need to create opportunities for them to learn, grow and develop their God given talent to its fullest potential. Our grassroots approach of merchandising allows us to create opportunities for these emerging designers and craftspeople by spreading their works worldwide – by spreading their exotic works worldwide, we in turn build their talents’ muscles and strengthen them to dream beyond the shackles and confines of their environment.   Can you tell us a story about some of your favourite designers? Who are they, and what can you tell us about them? Favourite designers? Hmmm…. I don’t have a favourite at the moment. I believe that each designer brings a unique set of creativity to the table which makes it even harder to have a favourite. It’s like saying pick your favourite fruit and I tell you that well it depends on my appetite at that given point in time… Meanwhile, I truly love the works of Dusco Designers. He crafts exotic and stylish handbags that speaks without uttering a word. Dusco is a Nigerian craftsman that specializes in creating African-inspired designs with a touch of western flair. Dusco’s story extends beyond the handbags has he continues to inspire many with his works despite the fact that he is physically challenged from his waist downward. I enthusiastically look forward to the day when Dusco Designs will be opening his boutique shop in downtown Chicago and Paris.   What can you tell us about any new collections of bags, shoes and jewellery you can tell us about? We recently expanded our handbag collections from O’Eclat and Dusco Designers. You can check out our website at www.africablooms.com. Also, we recently partnered with two other emerging fashion designers to expand our men and women clothing collection that will be released February 2016.   What other African apparel companies do you most love? And what do you think other businesses can learn from your business model? I love the Abrantie fashion designer – a Ghanian men’s collection line. Buqisi-Ruux Collection – a shoe brand that celebrates powerful African women and it was started by three young females. I also love Sandstrom Kenya – a luxury leather bags and accessories company from Kenya.

Buquisi Ruux Courtesy of Uganda Fashion Trends

Buquisi Ruux Courtesy of Uganda Fashion Trends

 

Sandstorm Kenya Courtesy of Casanova Adventures

Sandstorm Kenya Courtesy of Casanova Adventures

It is essential that we create long-term sustainable platforms and create opportunities for talented people across the continent to spread their wings and live better lives for themselves, families and communities. Photo Credit: Africa Blooms

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