Dubbed the wikipedia of young African designers, Industrie Africa launched a little over two years ago with a mission to challenge the perception of fashion on the continent. A virtual showroom of sorts, the site highlights the full breadth of African design talent with a directory of over 80 brands from 24 different African countries. Today, Industrie Africa is taking their objective one step further with a shoppable platform that brings those high end and emerging labels to the doorstep of their global audience. “There’s been a seismic shift in the way African fashion is being seen around the world and we just happened to be on the cusp of that,” says founder Nisha Kanabar, a native Tanzanian who gained her fashion marketing acumen working for Indian and American Vogue. “We really want to continue to disrupt the traditional worldviews surrounding what it means to be an African designer, shop African, or have an African identity.”
Given the wellspring of exciting new names from the continent, there’s no doubt that the fashion landscape is rapidly evolving. Just last year, South African designer Thebe Magugu scooped the prestigious LVMH prize; Nigerian designer and fellow finalist Kenneth Ize also made waves with his debut at Paris Fashion Week in February. Kanabar and her then-partner Georgia Bobley originally conceived of Industrie Africa as a place for discovery, and that focus on the new and the unexpected underpins the shopping experience. Kanabar handpicked pieces from a list of around 30 labels, some established (African fashion aficionados will for sure recognize Nigerian designer Lisa Folawiyo, for example), others up and coming.
Of the newbies, Ivorian designer Awa Meité is well worth getting to know. Handwoven and hand-dyed by local artisans, her fringed maxi skirts and puff-sleeved tops set centuries-old techniques on an entirely new path. Nigerian shoe brand Shekudo is another standout. Their colorful made-in-Lagos mix-media slides and midi-heels give the current yen for minimalist ’90s-style footwear a fresh jolt, thanks to the combination of upcycled leather and aso-oke, the traditional woven fabric of the Yoruba people. “We’re catering to a more conscious, emotionally-connected consumer, one who doesn’t shop in a vacuum or consume content in a vacuum,” explains Kanabar.
Thanks to their partnership with DHL, who’ve built a robust infrastructure in Africa, Industrie Africa is able to serve their international customers with surprisingly reasonable shipping prices, too: the flat rate for shipping to the U.S. is $40 with Europe slightly lower at $35. More than that, there’s a real commitment to telling the stories on the ground, delivering editorial content from within the local fashion community. Says Kanabar. “We put ourselves forward as an african platform first and foremost, one that really connects the dots on who we’re speaking about.”