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Essential Characteristics & Traits of a Successful African Fashion Brand

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Thomasina R. Legend




With the economic downside in every area of business, fashion brands are still emerging and doing well. This article reviews some essential characteristics and traits of successful African fashion brands that are thriving and succeeding where others have failed.

USP (Unique selling point) & Distinctive: African fashion brands thriving today have taken the time to build a solid and distinctive brand identity that sets them apart from the rest. They each have a USP that draws their customers to them. A typical example of this is the fashion brand Tongoro Studios by Sarah Diouf who's USP is about being solely made and crafted in Africa with the bedrock inspiration of African prints beautifully depicting the fact. To be successful within this ever-changing climate within the fashion industry, you should have distinctiveness and a solid USP that will have your customers coming back to you.

Target Audience: Many of the thriving African fashion brands are doing so because they know whom they are creating for and selling to. They don't create for just everyone. They have researched and perfected their knowledge of understanding their customers and what they need, and they cater to that. Knowing your target audience and whom you are selling to is essential. You have to identify your target audience and if they can afford what you have to offer or need what you have created. Every brand has a niche they cater to, so it is vital to do your research in this area and focus on providing and catering to the specific needs of your target audience, so you are not wasting money or funds on marketing to an audience that won't be potential customers.

Leadership: Going into design, owning a fashion brand and being the head of that brand comes with responsibilities that need someone who has excellent leadership skills and all the other skills that come with it like time management, great organisational skills, people management and more. Without a competent leader to take the lead and reigns of the brand's business and design elements or structure, the brand struggles. African fashion brands making it work in the industry all have leaders who are open to learning and never stop learning. They are leading their brands in the right direction with fundamental strategies that have set them apart from the rest. It is essential to learn and emulate their success and what they have done to ensure their brands stay afloat and keep bringing in the necessary funds to succeed.

Community of loyal customers: Creating community is the way forward, and many emerging African brands have embraced this ethos and made it work. They started by building a strong community of followers who understood their brand ethos, branding, USP, and everything they stood for. Building a community is essential because it lets your customers know that they are valued and a part of the brand's journey from inception. Building a community creates and encourages trust between the brand and its audience, sparking a human connection that cannot be taken for granted.

Selling a lifestyle: Successful brands do not sell just their designs or individual products but incorporate storytelling and communicate the importance of living a particular lifestyle, be it luxury, corporate, or whatever you decide to go for. Appealing to your audience fantasies and tugging at their emotional strings by showing them what and how they can be living through a well-crafted aesthetics that they can identify with is key to being successful in these times.

Strategic Operation & well organised: Having and incorporating key strategies are important, and fashion brands are keying into this knowledge. Brands that are selling have their operations structured and organised to provide the best service for their clients and customers. Being smart and ahead of the game and putting contingency plans in place if anything goes wrong is a top priority for them. For example, using the best shipping and postal service is essential. Your customers don't need excuses for why their orders are delayed or delivered in a poor state. Your responsibility is to ensure that your packaging, shipping, and service are top-notch at every stage. Having a well planned, strategic and organised operation is a make or break for your brand. Do the necessary research and know the best logistics providers that there are in your area or country, and be ready always to communicate any issues with your client, so they are in the know if any delays may occur whilst they wait for their orders. The days of bad reviews on orders getting to clients either delayed, destroyed, lost or tampered with should not be what your clients remember of you as a fashion brand.

Consistent Messaging: Remembering to stick to your brand ethos and message is essential. Your audience gravitates towards consistent marketing and messaging, not messages that confuse or disrupt the flow of information about what you stand for. Curating a unique and consistent brand message and story will carry through and speak volumes through many collections to come. When people see your brand, they immediately know it is your brand without being told, and there is something truly wonderful about being known by your branding and messaging. How do you do this successfully and follow it through? You can achieve this by creating a brand bible or set of rules that you follow and don't deviate from season to season, which will enable you to create your brand identity and preferences.

Technology: Technology cannot be ignored in this era, and brands incorporating technology into their brand and designs are soaring to the top because they understand that tech is the future. You can't be left behind if you don't embrace tech and learn how to fuse it into your brand and everyday branding and lifestyle, you will struggle. Using social platforms to generate the needed exposure for your brand is essential, and learning the tools each platform provides to aid you to do that is essential and shouldn't be kept at the back burner but should form and become a part of your strategy.


Sustainable practices: Incorporating sustainable practices are essential to the success of your business. It is essential to consider and research where you are sourcing your materials. This inherently advocates for ethical practices that consider and respect the manufacturing process and the people at the helm of it. Think of brands like NKWO Nigeria, Lemlem, Studio 189.

Great visual communicators: Big brands have for years been known to spend big budgets on visuals to communicate and sell to their audience. Unfortunately, not every brand has that kind of budget, but it is impressive to see how brands have been able to excel where visual content and storytelling is concerned. To thrive and succeed within the fashion industry, you have to be creative and visually tell powerful and unique stories. Brands excelling in this area include and are not limited to Tongoro Studio, Orange Culture, Kai Collective, Loza Maleombho, Christie Brown and many others. They understand the importance of visual storytelling and know how to reach their target audience through the visuals they create.


Creative: The industry is constantly changing and evolving at a massive pace and speed, and things don't stay the same, and you shouldn't either. It is vital to know when and how to reinvent yourself but still align with your brand aesthetics and what makes you different and unique. Fashion brands and designers that have thrived through the challenges of the past couple of years have been smart and strategic in knowing how to consistently reinvent themselves and keep it fresh, new and exciting. It's not just about following trends, but knowing how to create new trends that their valued customers can appreciate and want to emulate in their daily looks. This should be your goal too. Think of brands like Hanifa, Balm Labs (Ghana).

Social Activists: Some fashion brands that have taken centre stage and limelight are those utilising their platforms as a form of activism. They use their platforms to address social and political issues that affect their community and the world at large. Brands like Orange Culture by Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Lagos Space Programme, a sustainable genderless fashion brand by Thompson Adeju, use their platforms to speak up on issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Consistency: Being consistent is very important, and fashion brands that have embraced consistency in their branding, storytelling and designs have experienced the benchmark of success.


Image Credit

Image via fashionista.com