To understand the importance to fashion of emerging economies such as Africa, one needs to look no further than the recent round of catwalk shows for next spring that owed a large debt to that continent. As well as visual references, designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Stella Jean walked the walk to back up global talk, sourcing from Burkina Faso for their spring collections.
These are just baby steps, though – it’s not particularly easy to buy African styles on these shores. It’s a problem that Samuel Mensah, founder and chief executive of the new website Kisua, is familiar with. When it launches today, Kisua will bring together 10 contemporary designers on an international commerce platform, with more to be added to the roster.
“I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment when my friends started offering me money to buy them clothes when I would travel in Africa,” Mensah says. “I realised that a demand for modern African fashion was not being fulfilled.”
As the Africa director for a global investment fund, Mensah sought out a fashion company that provided a global commercial platform for contemporary African fashion in which the firm could invest. When he could not find one he decided to set up his own.
Working with the co-founder and creative director Danica Lepen and the advisory board chairman Ozwald Boateng, Kisua was born. “The starting point was to ensure we had a selection from different African countries,” says Lepen, who is eager to highlight the diversity of a continent often seen as homogenous. The first set of designers is from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Ghana. “We fund the development, sampling and production processes as designers do not have the working capital to set up their own businesses.”