Luxury Connect Africa
Luxury Connect Africa took place on 1-3 March 2019 at the prestigious Le Bristol hotel in Paris. The timing coincided with Paris Fashion Week and brought together 6 key African luxury brands under one roof. Those brands, curated by Luxury Connect Africa’s founder Uche Pezard, were Tiffany Amber, MaXhosa, R&R Luxury, SO Aesthetic, Muxima and Imane Ayissi. The 3-day event entailed a keynote conference, cocktail party, VIP dinner and trade exhibition.
Despite a delayed start to proceedings on the first day (1 March 2019), the keynotes provided great insight into the state of luxury fashion and beauty in Africa. Uche defined this year’s theme #Africaction as being rooted in the social consciousness of Africans who are well informed, assert their identities and an Africa that is in action. She sat down for a round table discussion with renowned fashion journalist Jessica Michault who told the audience that “workmanship and culture really define African brands”. Tiffany Amber is one such brand.
Africa’s queen of ready-to-wear fashion, Folake Coker, gave the audience insight into the success of running her luxury fashion brand Tiffany Amber. In the 20 years since the brand was founded as Africa’s first ready-to-wear brand, it has cultivated a loyal clientele both in Nigeria and internationally. Folake said “It was the first ready to wear brand by a Nigerian for a Nigerian. There was no blueprint for me to follow. No platforms for African fashion. No fashion week. Social media was virtually non-existent, so it was extremely challenging”. However, this gave her a huge opportunity to do things her own way and create the blueprint for other African brands to follow. Two years of deep dive learning on design concept built a brand that had “the same simple concept in design that launched the label but the clothes became more confident in artistry. Classic yet youthful. Sexy yet demure. Vibrant yet sophisticated. The clothes had a global appeal and therefore were highly sought after”.
In the modern age of digital media, one such highly sought-after influencer is Noonoouri. Noonoouri is the world’s first computer generated digital influencer. Noonoouri’s creator, Joerg Zuber, said Noonoouri is “a global citizen who lives in Paris. She does not have a voice because I didn’t want to create a cartoon character. Noonoouri was inspired by Naomi Campbell (in terms of otherworldliness and gracefulness) as well as by Kim Kardashian (the face of social media, reinventing herself all the time, being very creative and very professional). Both women are Noonoouri’s muses. Joerg said Noonoouri is very interested in Africa. It would be great if she could work with African designers especially on forgotten techniques or even on social justice issues.
With regard to forgotten techniques, MaXhosa’s Creative Director Tina Ngxoholo gave keynote attendees insight into the brand her brother Laduma Ngxoholo founded. The siblings were born into a family which was passionate about craftsmanship and culture. They were passionate about handcraft which included crochet, knitting, sewing, and hand-machine knitting. When out shopping for a television in a thrift store their mother found a machine that looked complex. She told Laduma what the machine could make and instead of buying the TV they bought the knitting machine. Their mother used to custom make items in the ’80s on a knitting machine. A forgotten technique that she taught her children. The international success of MaXhosa, known for its distinctive knitted patterns based on Xhosa beadwork, owes a great deal to the technique passed from one generation to the next.
Model turned designer Imane Ayissi presented his brand (which bears his name) at the event. He fashions traditional African material like raffia into amazing luxury garments. The craftsmanship in his work is unrivaled.
Luxury African beauty brands
Luxury beauty brands R&R Luxury, SO Aesthetic and Muxima were represented by their owners Valerie Obaze, Sacha Okoh and Myriam Taylor respectively.
Valerie Obaze’s R&R Luxury is a beauty brand that makes products out of shea butter and other luxury ingredients. The products include lip balm, shea oil and black soap.
Sacha Okoh’s SO Aesthetic is a beauty brand that caters for all skin tones and age ranges. The deeply pigmented products result in superb finishes and make-up looks.
Myriam Taylor’s Muxima is a luxury hair brand tailored for textured hair. It uses the finest ingredients such as caviar and 24-carat gold to improve scalp health and moisturize hair.
Celebrities in attendance include Vogue’s international editor-at-large Suzy Menkes, the first African Miss World Agbani Darego and Angolan model Maria Borges.