The world of luxury is ever-evolving and consumers’ appetite for luxury is increasing. For many decades, luxury has been closely associated with European heritage luxury brands such as Hermès, CHANEL, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton.
According to McKinsey & Company, Italy represents more than 40 percent of global luxury-goods production. Although the “Made in Italy” label is well-known and respected all over the world, there are few other countries where global luxury brands are manufactured.
Unfortunately, not many are made in Africa even though there are African countries very capable of producing high-quality luxury goods.
Why African Luxury Brands Are Necessary
A common misconception is that respectable luxury brands can be only produced in Europe or Asia. Perceptions like these are reasons why diversity and inclusivity are necessary in the luxury world. Over the past few years, global brands like Gucci and Prada have committed unforgivable faux pas with “racist and denigrating blackface imagery” and insensitive ad campaigns. Consequently, luxury brands are challenged to be more inclusive in all aspects of the industry.
Millennials and Generation Z are the most racially, ethnically, and sexually diverse generations yet, therefore their expectations are high. They want brands to respect and accept their diversity. They tend to look for consistent authentic representation of themselves in the products or services they purchase.
Additionally, luxury consumers expect exquisite craftsmanship, a great shopping experience, and of course high-quality goods and services. Others purchase luxury for emotional benefits. Luxury can make one feel happy, increase self-esteem, and give a sense of belonging. African luxury brands can certainly provide all of that.
The global luxury market must value African luxury brands and other brands from non-expected luxury markets to further create diversity in the industry. As a result, the competition will be forced to shift their marketing strategies when anticipating the needs of specific demographics.
Affluent consumers will now discover luxury brands from markets they were not familiar with.
The Importance of a Digital Presence
COVID-19 restrictions like extended lockdowns, travel ban, and widespread store closures have significantly impacted in-person shopping for luxury retailers. However, online sales are gaining market share worldwide. According to Bain & Company, the world’s leading advisor to the global luxury goods industry, “Luxury purchases made online have increased throughout the crisis and the online channel could represent up to 30 percent of the market by 2025”.
To cope with this shift, African luxury brands should favor digital presence should they plan on keeping afloat in this pandemic. They must implement the same marketing strategies as global luxury brands to increase traffic to their e-commerce websites. That means allocating a great portion of their advertising budget to influencer marketing and digital advertising to gain international exposure, target consumers, and increase sales.
It is also very crucial for brands to have an attractive yet easy to navigate a functional website for a good user experience. To further entice luxury consumers, luxury brands could offer international shipping to effectively deliver products globally.
The Value of Sustainability in Luxury
Conscious millennial and Generation Z consumers’ expectations for luxury are very high. They represent close to 30 percent of all luxury consumers and could reach 45 percent by 2025. They are specific in what they expect from brands and will call out those that do not practice sustainability. But will pay a premium for brands whose core values align with theirs especially those that use ethically sourced materials and are made with local and highly skilled artisans.
African luxury brands looking to attract millennial and Generation Z consumers as repeat consumers should favor sustainability. Sustainability is good for business and fortunately for African brands, Africa can make sustainable use of its many natural resources when producing eco-friendly goods.
Below, a look at five African luxury brands that can easily rival global luxury goods brands on sustainability, high quality, and value. Each brand comes from an emerging market and is successful beyond the continent. Further proof that Africa has always been capable of luxury.
VanLeles: Showcasing Africa’s natural beauty through jewelry
There’s nothing more luxurious than fine jewelry. Enter VanLeles Diamonds, a London-based luxury jewelry brand created by Guinea-Bissau-born gemologist Vania Leles.
The company uses ethically sourced African diamonds and gemstones to showcase Africa’s beauty through jewelry.
“People talk about Colombian emeralds, but never Zambian, which are just as beautiful. People talk about Burmese rubies, but not Mozambican rubies, which have existed for more than 400 million years whilst Burmese for only 100 million years,” said gemologist-turned-designer Vania Leles in an interview given to CNN.
Leles hopes to develop blockchain technology that will ensure traceability and transparency and improve the environmental and social impact of diamond and gemstone supply chains.
VanLeles Diamonds is available online and at the company’s showroom in London.
MAXHOSA AFRICA: When tradition meets modernity
South Africa is considered as sub-Saharan Africa’s main point of entry to the continent’s luxury market. It’s the continent’s most developed economy and is known for its intense shopping culture with over 2000 shopping malls including international luxury boutiques.
MAXHOSA AFRICA is a South-African luxury brand with astonishing international success. Created by South African Laduma Ngxokolo, MAXHOSA AFRICA celebrates Xhosa heritage through premium graphic knitwear by merging traditional Xhosa aesthetics with modern graphic style.
Thanks to the brand’s digital presence, celebrity endorsements, international fashion shows, MAXHOSA AFRICA is one of Africa’s fastest-growing luxury brand.
The premium graphic knitwear brand is sold online and at luxury department stores around the world.
EPARA: Cocooning women of color with African botanicals
Nigeria is Africa’s most populated nation and an important luxury market. According to a McKinsey & Co. report, Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, is expected to have consumer spending of $25 billion or more by 2020 thanks to a growing affluent class.
Epara which means “to cocoon yourself” in Ebira, a Nigerian dialect is one of Africa’s leading luxury skincare lines. The all-natural handcrafted luxury skincare brand was created in 2014 by Nigerian Ozohu Adoh. It offers skincare solutions for women of color using plant extracts and botanical skin brighteners derived from Africa’s rich soils.
“Epara is a brand born out of a need to provide luxury skincare products to women with dark skin tones. The skin issues women have present differently in Women of Colour,” said Ozohu Adoh
Epara is available online and at luxury department stores around the world.
YSWARA: A sip of Africa’s finest fragrant heritage
Yswara is another sustainable African luxury brand with an international appeal.
Founded in 2011 by Ivorian Swaady Martin-Leke, Yswara is a fast-growing luxury brand that prides itself in sourcing exquisite chemical-free buds that are carefully produced by artisans across Africa.
“Grown solely on African soil and ethically sourced, our gourmet teas pay tribute to African elegance and refinement. The careful blending of the finest buds, leaves and spices ensures that you are not just drinking our tea, but also tasting a piece of our story” said Swaady Martin-Leke.
From South African’s rooibos to Rwanda’s black tea, Yswara unequivocally offers a sip of Africa’s finest fragrant heritage to satisfy the world’s undeniable love affair with tea. The brand is perfect for any refined tea drinker who can appreciate gourmet tea from an eco-friendly brand.
The teas are elegantly stored in rose-gold canisters for the ultimate luxurious experience and are available online and at 30 retailers across 17 countries.
ZAAF: Sharing Ethiopia’s cultural heritage with the world
When it comes to leather, Ethiopia holds a double competitive advantage. It has the world’s largest livestock population and produces some of the world’s finest leather. The perfect location for any entrepreneur interested in the leather goods industry. Abai Schulze is that entrepreneur.
“I knew I wanted to be in the creative space and create jobs in Ethiopia so ZAAF was a combination of passion and opportunity.” Abai Schulze
The Amharic word zaaf means tree. ZAAF was founded in 2014 by Ethiopian designer Abai Shulze. It is a collection of premium leather goods and accessories handcrafted in Ethiopia by local artisans. Each item reflects Schulze’s cultural heritage by showcasing Ethiopia’s traditional artisanal ageless patterns on beautiful leather to create made to last products.
ZAAF Collection has been featured in international magazines Forbes and Vogue and has graced New York Fashion Week’s runway.
The collection is available online and in various boutiques across Addis Ababa and Washington, DC.