October is an important month for us as we celebrate Black History Month. Fashions Finest salutes this month by celebrating big and small realities in the beauty and fashion industry with you all.
Ph. Rodnae Productions, Pexels
The contribution of the Black communities in the UK has been underrated or simply unseen for too long. Yet Black Britons have enriched our cultural landscape and economy with vibes and stories coming from afar. Fashions Finest wants to celebrate black innovators and strong business women who make our life more beautiful.
Every month tinges with different colours and surges as the flag for a cause. Fashions Finest's Black History Month is a journey across people and ideas fueled by a courageous entrepreneur spirit and passion.
Tiph'arah is a UK-based haircare company born in Coventry, Midlands. The brand moved its first steps in the intimacy of a house - to be more precise - a kitchen. Jessica Oduro, the founder, was looking for intensive and natural options that could keep her Afro hair nourished and hydrated for longer. Failed to do so, she started to experiment with natural and organic ingredients at home until she found the right formulation for glorious hair. 'Tiph'arah means 'glory' in Hebrews, in fact! Tiph'arah's hair butters aim to strengthen the hair strands, hydrate and promote healthy growth. The product range, consisting of three types of hair butter (Shea Cocoa Mango, Paw Carrot and Shea-Mang AVO'), is made with 90% of pure and organic ingredients from Ghana and the remaining sourced in Europe at high standards.
Aviela (read [a-vee-el-ah]) is a word used in Northern Ghana for 'good', 'nice' or even 'beautiful'. This word conveys very positive vibes. Aviela is the child of Patricia Monney who, during a family holiday in Ghana in 2007, was introduced to the power of raw, unrefined shea butter to heal her little daughter's ankle. Patricia learnt about shea butter anti-inflammatories properties and, once back home in the UK, she focused on expanding her knowledge on shea butter. She found a way to work the natural ingredient without compromising the natural properties and qualities of shea butter. The solution was her kitchen helper which gives Aviela products that superb weightless whipped consistency. Aviela offers a range of skincare and body care for all skin types with 100% pure, unrefined shea butter. Patricia sources her shea butter ethically from a cooperative of 25 women from the village of Gurugu in the Northern region of Ghana.
Pamoja (read [pam-oh-jah]) is a Swahili word meaning 'together' and is inspired by formulator and founder Sarah Taylor's Tanzanian/British heritage as well her skin journey. During pregnancy, she experienced severe sensitivity and succeeded in finding the solution by herself. She worked on her own products and formulations gaining also some spotlights in national magazines.
This independent, black-owned company offers natural skincare with high performance and quality standards. Cruelty-free and environmentally friendly, Pamoja takes equal care of sensitive skin and the environment with sustainable packaging, ethically sourced botanical ingredients and zero palm oil. Sarah thinks that 'everyone deserves to feel good and that when you are kinder to yourself, it will help you be your very best.' For Sarah 'Black History Month is an opportunity to be more inclusive, to shine a spotlight on the contributions and the challenges we face so that we can better understand our collective history every single month of the year.'
Meet Wax + Wraps
For many of us, the pandemic represented a forced stop; however, this suspended time allowed us to reset priorities and rebuild ourselves. This happened to Jaqueline Shaw with Wax + Wraps. The fashion expert and entrepreneur overcame the COVID-19 backlash thanks to her acumen and love for fashion design. She realised how many people get interested in handmade and sewing during the pandemic and she also noticed how popular were and are still crafting subscription boxes.
Jaqueline, who has an MA in Ethical Fashion, is passionate about Africa and traditional fabrics. She put this personal love in her own subscription box by sourcing unique textiles printed, woven or knitted by hand in African states and regions. 'Other sewing boxes do the job but they are all very similar and I felt that they don’t inspire me to learn more about the people or even to source responsible fabrics and textiles too. My Master's degree in Ethical Fashion from the UCA Epsom, taught me that in this fashion industry, WE the consumers are the change we want to see. We are responsible for the impact of the industry on our planet and our purchasing decisions can build or break the industry. And its environment impact.'
Jaqueline thinks that 'Africa is Fashion's Future' and has been spreading awareness at previous London Fashion Weeks and events in Africa and the States. We could not but totally agree on that. Her sewing box does not just quench our thirst for crafts but also disclose stories from beautiful lands and people as no other service does.
Saka Luxe Beauty
Many feels puzzled by the length and complexity of cosmetic labels. This exact reaction is behind Saka Luxe Beauty, a UK natural hair and skincare company founded in Bristol in 2020. Available on Etsy, eponymous of everything handcrafted, the brand's ethos is based on creating simple and affordable products to moisturise and nourish hair, beard and body. Every jar of butter, every bottle of oil is handmade in small batches to ensure a caring and luxurious feel.
Jessica, Patricia, Sarah and Jacqueline are just four of the many black businesswomen that turn their creative verve or necessity to express themselves and made a living from their passion. Black History Month is important to us because the majority of the black-owned businesses are too small to gain the deserved visibility on the media and still struggle in this overcrowded industry.
We invite you to have a look around and discover the authenticity of these companies and that of many similar ones. As you and we shop independent and black-owned, we can support these individuals and make a little but significant change in their lives, ours, and the way we shop.
Fashions Finest is happy to bring you these personal stories and call all the black-founded companies to get in touch to join us and build together a network of creators beyond Black History Month.
- Black History Month
- independent brands
- Natural Hair Products
- ethically sourced
- Organic Products
- African Fashion
- African Prints
- Black British
- Black women
- Black Owned business
- Black businesses
- Body Care
- Subscription box
- Dry Hair
- Sensitive Skin
- Afro Hair
- Afro Hair Company
- Afro Hair Products
- Wax + Wraps
- Sourcing in Africa
- Jacqueline Shaw
A big congratulations to Jacqueline Shaw and the rest of the Africa Fashion Guide team for organising this event. As a designer, I definitely left being more informed, more connected to the industry and more inspired to take my fashion brand, 'Keji Victoria', to new heights. Every guest panelist gave a unique and seasoned insight into the Africa Fashion industry. Enjoy my highlights below!
*Please note that all content including those in speech bubbles have been paraphrased for the purpose of this blogger platform.
Highlights of the Africa Fashion Conference
African Fashion Market
This segment of the conference was insightful in highlighting the highs and lows of the African fashion scene as a whole, and the individual businesses within it. The panel of guest speakers celebrated the opportunities that fashion players have to showcase their businesses. For example, Lagos and Johannesburg Fashion Weeks are quite large in scale, and a great way to showcase national and international talent. However, the scheduling of these Fashion Weeks could be more organised and structured-perhaps parallel to the existing international shows.
'The Africa Fashion Market' section at the #FAConf2015
Beatrace Oola, the Founder and Managing Director of Africa Fashion Day Berlin (AFDB), shared why such opportunities for designers, buyers and sellers to meet and network are created. By bringing different aspects of the supply chain together, the Africa fashion scene can begin birthing reliable and sustainable production and selling structures. Buyers or sellers who are committed to attending and making transactions at trade shows such as 'Premium Berlin', will be treated with respect in the industry, which will translate into committed clients and services in the long term.
Sustainability and environmentally aware designers are definitely the future of Africa fashion. Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of Studio 189, shared an insight into her business vision. 'It's not just about trends, it's about quality. We focus on the local artisans and the supply chain contributing to the quality of every item'. She went on to give some business advice- 'don't try to do everything by yourself; focus on your strengths and collaborate with others who possess things that will compliment yours'.
Rosario Dawson, co-founder of Studio 189 along with a remarkably diverse portfolio, added, 'take time to work on what you have. As a designer, do the ground work and emphasise on quality. Presentation is key, and the story that goes behind your work is equally important and interesting'.
Samson Soboye, owner of Fashion and Lifestyle store, Soboye, gave a refreshing aspect to the consumer-side of the fashion industry: 'the visuals, image, and quality of garments are the foremost important things when selling to consumers. Before the consumer hears the story behind any work, they would have made up their minds on whether they like it or not, based on the above criteria.' Soboye left us with thoughts to ponder on; 'A business is not a business without money! What infrastructure do we have? Are there resources to get to the next level? Is it sustainable in the long term?'
Africa is Open for Business
This segment gave great insight into how far Africa has come in being receptive to the Fashion business, and whether fashion players still experience barriers to building successful businesses. The host, Hannah Pool of The Guardian Newspaper, asked the guest panellists what they believed to be the key challenges in doing business in Africa;
Jordine Bartlett, of Financial Times Lifestyle, stated that, 'time is of the essence! Working to time is needed, so that we can be recognised and respected on a global scale'.
Sindiso Khumalo, brand owner and Creative Director of Sindiso Khumalo, added that time and quality control may be lacking in certain places. She advised the need to invest resources and time in the actual market of operation. Some people spend little time studying and investing into their market- which can be the reason why quality is lacking.
Yemisi Makualu, of Hatch Africa, went on to emphasise that African consumers may lack patience. Most of these consumers want to make quick money. Business takes time, and sometimes it's not just about putting something out, but about investing in the right places.
Networking at the #FAConf2015
Sourcing From Africa
The final segment I attended focused on the supply chain within the industry.
One of the questions asked by host, Abi Rushton, of Aid by Trade Foundation, was 'what determines your sourcing decisions?'
Daphne Kasambala, owner of Sapelle, shared that having a network of people all over Africa helps because there is little budget to physically travel and meet with different suppliers. She went on to say that Kenya has great potential for sourcing, drive and the curiosity to create from raw/local materials. They are good at taking things from their raw state and recreating something unique.
Paola Masperia, owner of Mayamiko, said that her company is committed to sourcing locally, 'which means we can't always source all the fabrics we wish for. But we are contributing to the local economy....' She highlighted that the trading agreements need to greatly improve in Africa. For example, it's easier to trade and supply fabric around Europe due to the existing trading blocs; but this proves very challenging between African countries.
Another question was put through the the panelists; 'how do small businesses find cost-effective ways to produce in small quantities?'
Paola: 'there are great initiatives available so that you can collaborate with other designers and businesses when ordering to off-set extremely high costs. Otherwise, focus on your chosen market and customers for your collection'. Paola noted that focusing on your consumers allows you to order according to demand- which may be for a short term basis.
Daphne: 'diversify your portfolio, search for different manufacturers so you are not limited to one way and terms of production'
Madeleine Rosberg, of Responsibly Africa, also added that 'some African markets are open to small businesses- such as Kenya, Ethopia, Uganda, etc. In such places it is easier to find the right manufacturer who can produce the smaller quantities you desire. It's about searching for the right manufacturer.'
How did you find the #FAConf2015? Please share your comments below, and feel free to share this post!