The business of African luxury fashion steps up a gear with new ecommerce platform Oxosi. Kolade Adeyemo and his team talk shop

If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk, which is exactly what Kolade Adeyemo and Akin Adebowale have done with Oxosi. Arguably the first truly premium ecommerce platform delivering luxury African fashion and lifestyle brands to international consumers, savvy shoppers all shared a collective fist bump when it went live last December. The secret to its impact since the soft launch is as much to do with their selection of desirable designers such as Maki Oh, Brother Vellies, Dent de Man and Osei Duro, as it is the founders’ business acumen and eye on the long game.

“As early as 2011 we recognised that there was a growing number of high profile African brands with a narrative of craftsmanship, dynamism and local enterprise occupying a segment of the luxury market. Yet they often lacked the contacts, technological prowess and marketing savvy to connect with the global market,” says Adeyemo, who previously ran creative agency Base Official in NYC with Adebowale. “Similarly, there was a void of retail channels that provided high quality made in Africa design to the diaspora and Africa enthusiasts.” 

Oxosi was their response. So they went about tackling the challenges that had waylaid so many other entrepreneurs in this space before them. “We had to put in place the technology required to remove the barriers to international cross-border commerce. We devoted a lot of time to identifying the right advisers to support us in optimising critical areas such as digital media, merchandise planning, logistics and supply chain. And we went about securing the right financial stakeholders. We have been fortunate to have partnered with a like minded group of investors who are committed to our strategy of becoming a market leader in global ecommerce.”

Oxosi is now focussing on the three Cs – commerce, content and community. Wrapped around the expertly curated items for sale are compelling editorial features and going forward, partnerships with influencers will extend the conversation. “This is just the first innings. Oxosi is about building a lasting brand with a huge and important generation.”

"Oxosi is about building a
lasting brand with a huge and
important generation"

Zara Okpara, Oxosi’s buying director, has helped shape brand development from her base in Lagos thanks to her close ties with designers in the region including Lisa Folawiyo. “Some designers face production challenges that mean they struggle to meet quality standards. For those who beat the challenges, the #MadeinAfrica logo is often no longer an option. That's why platforms like Oxosi are essential, not only because they actually invest in these designers by buying their stock, but they are also passionate about the growth and visibility of the industry as a whole,” says Okpara. “Oxosi tells the designers’ story, where the pieces are produced and who makes them. This is crucial for today's global consumer for whom the brand’s ethos is essential to a purchase. As retail increasingly embraces ecommerce, the more African fashion can become widely known, respected and able to provide what their consumers across the world love.”

Lagosian designer Bridget Awosika now enters her second season with Oxosi. Her SS16 collection, entitled You, exudes a clean yet feminine sensibility that speaks to Oxosi’s contemporary point of view. “This season features a dreamy confection of pleated pastel organza and silk crepe as a depiction of the purity and naivety in women. The bow, rose, orchid and leaf motifs present ‘her’ as the most beautiful gift. Ladylike silhouettes have a hint of sensuality and sporty chic using black to tie in her strength,” Awosika says.

In menswear, Post-Imperial extends from accessories into RTW for SS16 with a range of simple separates covered in a chaos of bright stripes. “Post-Imperial sits in a space that shows how intercontinental African fashion can be,” says founder Niyi Okuboyejo, who produces his textiles in Nigeria and makes the garments in the US. “The adire techniques we experiment with help us to create the strange but familiar. Everyone knows what a pinstriped shirt looks like. Ours however is a distortion of the original due to the irregular hand drawn lines. Different cultures interpret the result in different ways. Most in the West see it as artisanal. In Japan they see it as Wabi-Sabi - the aesthetic of transience and imperfection. Whatever the result, it allows everyone to participate in this cultural exchange.”

It’s this same spirit of border-blurring Afromodernism that unites everyone contributing to this new enterprise and its long-term ambitions. “Oxosi is connecting to the billion dollar sleeping giant that is African fashion and presenting it to the global stage,” says Okuboyejo. “We are aiming to control the narrative of Africa through contemporary design with the highest standards and taste.”

See our shoot featuring key looks from Oxosi’s SS16 collections here.

Photography Amandla Baraka
Styling Obi Anazodo

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