Nisha Kanabar and Georgia Bobley discuss their new platform, which acts as a digital showroom for African fashion designers

With so much attention now being shone on fashion around Africa, yet little joined up thinking when it comes to the business behind it, experts Nisha Kanabar and Georgia Bobley hope their new platform will bring the continent’s best designers together. Industrie Africa acts as a digital directory where labels can present their biography, lookbooks and press cuttings to buyers, journalists and consumers.

Kanabar was raised in Dar es Salaam and studied fashion marketing and management in New York, where she met wordsmith Bobley and went on to work for Indian and American Vogue as well as in Dubai. Having developed their virtual showroom for the past year, they’ve just gone live with 83 designers from 23 countries including Nigeria’s Lisa Folawiyo, Senegal’s Selly Raby Kane, South Africa’s Rich Mnisi and Mozambique’s Taibo Bacar. With the potential for growth so incredibly vast, Nataal asks the duo to tell all.

How did you hit on the idea of Industrie Africa?
It was Nisha’s move to Tanzania in 2016 that was the driving force. After nearly a decade abroad, her return home triggered questions about the disconnect in the continent’s fashion ecosystem. On one hand, there’s an overwhelming amount of information and talent; on the other, there’s a palpable lack of clarity on how to approach it. So Industrie Africa was born out of the need to craft an infrastructure that navigates this vast fashion space. How would a retail buyer in Nigeria learn more about the scene in Ethiopia? How would a potential customer in South Africa get the scoop on what’s cool in Ghana? Industrie Africa is the starting point that bridges that gap. It positions Africa as this connected fashion frontier.

What are you looking for when it comes to accepting designers to the platform?
We want to be as inclusive as possible while still curating designers with a discretionary eye. A lot of it is based on the strength of a brand’s collections and the emphasis placed on high quality imagery. Our eligibility framework ensures that all of our designers fit within the global industry narrative in that they adhere to a seasonal collection cycle, possess at least one regular stockist and are predominantly based on the continent. Diasporic African brands are also considered as long as they root from African influence.

What have been your most exciting discoveries so far?
What’s been amazing to discover is the sheer number of designers that subscribe to sustainable practices. Whether it’s incorporating traditional crafts (Ghana’s AAKS bags); employing local artisans (Rwanda’s Haute Baso ready to wear); or repurposing materials that are causing social, political, and environmental problems (Egypt’s Reform Studio’s re-use of plastic bags into lifestyle products); we’ve been extremely pleased to see designers work to preserve the past and better the future in their respective countries.

What are your goals for the first year?
We aim to establish Industrie Africa as the go-to guide for industry insiders by exposing the diversity of the continent’s talent and repositioning the vernacular and behaviour of how people perceive, access and interact with the continent. The more seamlessly we can integrate Industrie Africa as an indispensable resource, the stronger the foundation we’ll lay to really evolve the platform into an essential tool.

What do you want the fashion world to know about contemporary African style?
We want people to see it as more than just a trend reduced to tribal or indigenous detailing. The contemporary design scene is burgeoning and has something incredibly exciting to offer. In tandem with global trends, designers put a strong focus on their own heritage and traditions. There’s a sense of nationalism that they carry with them and that story translates into their designs.

Visit Industrie Africa

Published on 07/06/2018