Many Nigerian emerging labels struggle with retail. This is unsurprising as a good percentage of these new designers are self taught and build their labels from the ground up, driven only by their passion for/fascination with fashion design. Because our industry seems to value unpaid labour over paid work, many of these designers spend the earlier parts of their careers interning for free or designing for a few clients.
Only after they have broken through the limitations and gained the respect/admiration of industry insiders, after they have amassed an actual following ready to spend money on their designs, do they begin to truly concern themselves with a retail strategy. Most end up selling to a limited clientele via their social media profiles. The rest either get lucky and are picked up by one of the handful of concessionary retail stores in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, or are privileged and have parents or relatives finance a showroom/atelier.
Each of these methods has it’s disadvantages. Owning an atelier or showroom in Nigeria’s draconian economy will certainly ensure that the label operates at a loss. Concessionary retail stores give the risk that your brand might be represented, or worse, your clothes might be lost in the swarm of labels that these brands stock, and selling via your social media profile forces you to divide your time between the creative and financial aspects of your brand, which ends up decreasing productivity on both ends. There has to be another way, and maybe we can find a solution in South Africa’s Convoy.
Convoy is a South African retail store run and co-owned by six South African labels; Black Betty Design, Heart & Heritage, Selfi, Hannah Collection, W35T, and MerweMode, each with its own niche clientele and distinct aesthetic. By joining forces and putting all their work in a single space, all six labels provide a unique experience, a chance to meet and interact with six different designers and create a multi-label wardrobe while buying South African.
Convoy is a collaboration between 6 proudly South African designers each bringing a fresh and exciting design element to an exhilarating shop space in Melville, Johannesburg. The design mix found at Convoy; Black Betty Design Heart & Heritage Selfi Hannah Collection W35T MerweMode
A photo posted by Convoy Shop (@convoyshop) on
This fascinates us for two reasons, first the space is not a concessionary so all designers dont have to pay commissions on the pieces sold and can price their clothes more reasonably. Second, some of the designers are usually in store, so it provides a pseudo-atelier vibe, helping the designers forge personal relationships with the people who buy their clothes. Thirdly, it splits costs while allowing the designers actually reflect their brands in their niches of the store. We wont be naive and assume that this arrangement works flawlessly, but we think it is a great answer to the question of retailing for smaller brands.
We hope smaller labels at least consider it.