The fashion industry in Africa is one of the most vibrant and dynamic sectors, showcasing the unique styles and expressions of the people. In a recent report, UNESCO noted that the industry is rapidly growing, with a market value of over $31 billion and employing over 1.7 million people. Despite the rich and diverse design talent and cultural heritage of the continent, the industry faces many challenges, such as a lack of infrastructure, financing, skills, and distribution channels. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the global fashion industry generated $2.5 trillion in revenues in 2019, but Africa’s share was less than 1%. However, many fashion entrepreneurs in Africa are embracing technology and innovation to create solutions to enhance the fanion industry businesses and meet the needs of customers. Here are some of the fashion tech startups leading the demand for African fashion and transforming the industry.
La Reina is a rental fashion platform that offers women access to a wide range of designer dresses for special occasions. Formed in 2016 by Ghada El-Tanawy and Amr Diab, La Reina started as a platform that allows women to rent their evening and bridal gowns to each other. Today, the company offers a wide range of clothing, shoes, and accessories from over 100 Egyptian and international brands.
Users who lend their dresses to La Reina earn money from those who rent. To date, the platform has garnered more than EGP 3.5 million (about $200,000) for dress owners. Their newest feature is a fashion subscription service, called “The Box”, which allows users to subscribe to get a box with a new outfit every week. A user simply creates an account and chooses a membership plan.
Each month, the subscriber receives a box containing 2-3 items from La Reina’s collection. They can browse the collection and select the items they would like to rent, or leave it up to La Reina’s stylists to put together a box for them. Once they receive their box, they have 5 days to wear the items (La Reina dry cleans and sanitizes all items before sending them, so that they’re ready to wear.) When the subscriber is ready for something new, they simply notify La Reina and they’ll send the subscriber their next shipment.
La Reina is targeting the growing Egyptian e-commerce market, which is expected to reach $10 billion by 2025. The company is also targeting the Egyptian fashion market, which is worth $8 billion. In 2018, the company closed a $1 million funding round led by local venture capital fund Algebra Ventures, along with U.S.-based 500 Startups. La Reina is also the latest regional company to get backing from global venture capital fund 500 Startups, which has a long history of investing in the Middle East and North Africa.
Anka is an online marketplace that connects African fashion designers and artisans with customers around the world. Founded in 2016 by Ivorian entrepreneurs Moulaye Taboure, Kadry Diallo, and Luc B. Perussault, Anka aims to showcase the diversity and creativity of African fashion and crafts, while empowering African creators to grow their businesses and reach a global audience. Anka offers a curated selection of clothing, accessories, jewellery, art, and home decor from over 7,000 sellers across Africa and the diaspora. Customers can shop for products that reflect their style and identity while supporting the African creative economy. Anka also provides tools and services to help sellers manage their online shops, such as inventory, shipping, payment, and marketing. Anka has raised $11 million in Series A funding from Partech, and Orange Ventures.
Oyoyo is a fashion tech app, that is set to revolutionize the Nigerian fashion industry by connecting designers, tailors, and (Aso Ofi) weavers with a nationwide customer base. The app allows artisans to create online profiles and promote their specialisms, skills, and signature designs. It also features an intuitive “measurement management” feature that allows fashion designers to take, store, and convert measurements of the individual into the desired format. Oyoyo is designed to address the challenges faced by traditional fashion artisans in Nigeria, such as reliance on word-of-mouth and repeat customers, difficulty reaching a wider audience, and lack of online presence.
The app also offers several features that can help them to grow their businesses. For example, Oyoyo helps artisans improve their efficiency and productivity by automating tasks such as order management and customer communication. This can free up their time to focus on creating and designing new products. Oyoyo has not yet raised any outside funding. However, the company has been bootstrapped by its founders, and it has received some support from angel investors.
Klasha is an e-commerce platform that sells fast fashion from global brands to young consumers in Africa. Founded in 2017 by British Nigerian entrepreneur Jessica Anuna, Klasha aims to make online shopping easy, affordable, and convenient for African millennials. Klasha offers a wide range of trendy clothing, shoes, and accessories for women, with prices ranging from $10 to $100. Customers can pay with local and international payment methods, and enjoy fast and free delivery within 1 to 5 days across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Klasha also leverages artificial intelligence and data analytics to optimize its inventory, pricing, and marketing strategies. Klasha has raised $1 million in seed funding from Techstars, Ginco Investments, and other angel investors.
Kisua, a South African startup, offers contemporary African fashion online and a platform for emerging designers. It aims to increase global exposure for African fashion by collaborating with designers across the continent, to create exclusive capsule collections, inspired by the sights, sounds, and tastes of Africa, blending traditional techniques and materials with a contemporary design aesthetic. Kisua delivers worldwide, with distribution centres in Africa, America, and Europe. Founded by Sam Mensah Jr, a Ghanaian economist, and former international investment fund director, Kisua aims to address challenges faced by African fashion, such as infrastructure, financing, skills, and distribution.
Kisua also supports African designers by funding their collaborations through the Kisua Designer Fund and paying them a portion of every sale from their collections. The startup has attracted the attention of international celebrities, such as Beyonce. Kisua has raised over $1 million in funding from various sources, including the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, and the Abraaj Group, a private equity firm that invests in emerging markets. Kisua has also received support from the African Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Tony Elumelu Foundation.