By Eyram Rafael
The advent of COVID-19 had a huge toll on many industries, with the African Fashion industry not exempted. Businesses went into limbo due to the worldwide lockdown and other protocols associated with the virus. Despite this, some African Fashion businesses still managed to thrive in the wake of this global pandemic with the smart use of innovation and technology, where others paved the path of familiar old patterns which evidently did not work as proved in the number of brands that had to close their doors for good. Here are some of the brands that thrived during the pandemic through the use of innovation and creative technology to tell their stories in never before seen ways that truly wowed us all.
Anifa Mvuemba started her brand in 2012 after finding success on Instagram with her first custom piece, a birthday gown for her 21st birthday. Today, the Hanifa brand has grown into a ready to wear women’s brand that plays with the feminine curve, bold colours, distinctive textures and designs with an attainable luxury aesthetic.
How Hanifa incorporated technology and innovation: For a brand that was birthed out of social media, Anifa Mvuemba channelled technology to thrive in an era where many businesses were withering. The brand played with 3-D technology to produce a groundbreaking digital fashion show for their new collection, Pink Label Congo. Using invisible curvy models in line with the brand’s aesthetic, Hanifa streamed the 3D premiere of their new collection, which was easily noticed by the fashion industry globally.
Established in 2016 by Sarah Diouf, Tongoro is an all African fashion label based in Dakar - Senegal. The sexy-modest, fluid and billowing creations by Tongoro reflect nothing but the spirit of modern African womenswear.
How Tongoro incorporated technology and innovation: By focusing on captivating editorial and social media content, Tongoro thrived despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Using alluring editorials, campaign videos, documentaries, 3D look books and influencers, and celebrities like Beyoncé clad in their pieces, the brand was able to stay more relevant than ever, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thebetsile Magugu’s eponymous brand, Thebe Magugu, established in 2016, is all about honouring culture through colourful, bold and sleek design. The brand employs local craftsmanship and innovative fabric techniques to create a sustainable, distinctive look.
How Thebe Magugu incorporated storytelling and innovation: By staying true to their ethos as a brand and using storytelling in their collections, the Thebe Magugu brand managed to flourish during Covid. Their collections like “African Studies” are chic creations that are fully embedded with cultural stories. The unpacking of these stories behind the collections on their social platform easily helped people connect with the brand and their apparel in a tune when most designers were dormant.
Christie Brown is a Ghanaian luxury women’s brand started in 2008 by Aisha Ayensu. With a signature style of corset bodices, embroidered detailing, and excellent juxtaposition of African prints with western fabrics, the Christie Brown label typifies the glamour of the contemporary African woman.
How Christie Brown incorporated technology and innovation: Christie Brown also tapped into innovation by taking their collection premier digital. Using real-life models, the brand created a virtual runway/presentation of their SS20 collection. The brand found success by mirroring the essence of in-person runway shows throughout their presentation. Even with a virtual presentation, they had front row viewers and encouraged them to dress up for the virtual show through social media. Their efforts were complemented with their websites, which they relied on to still drive in sales during the pandemic instead of store sales.
In summation, it is evident that all the African fashion brands that thrived during Covid relied heavily on originality combined with digital storytelling and innovative technology, areas we encourage designers worldwide to embrace and integrate into their design plans moving forward.
Image Credit: Via Hanifa.