The quantity of fashion talent emerging from Africa is always growing, bringing with it the requirement for support in the form of investments, mentorship, community development, market exposure, or creative awards. This need is brought about by the fact that the amount of fashion talent emerging from Africa is continually growing. Enter Birimian, a French and Ivorian investment and financial firm with offices in both Abidjan and France.
Birimian was founded with the sole intention of bolstering Africa’s luxury clothes industry.
The income generated by the garment industry in Africa is projected to reach $5.04 billion in 2022, exhibit a predicted annual growth rate (between 2022 and 2025) of 18.20%, and result in a volume of $8.32 billion by the year 2025, as stated by Statista. Nevertheless, despite considering this, labels entering the sector still need proficiency, consistency, and a sense of marketing prowess.
All of these are things a helpful firm like Birimian is dedicated to assisting in giving to their customers. “Birimian is dedicated to supporting African heritage through three pillars — capacity building, investment, and operational excellence,” Laureen Kouassi-Olsson, CEO and Executive Chair of Birimian Holdings, tells OkayAfrica. “Birimian is dedicated to supporting African heritage through three pillars.”
Birimian has continued to work and partner with other luxury powerhouses like the Paris-based Private Equity Firm Trail Capital and Institut Francais de la Mode (IFM) to create one-of-a-kind accelerator programs that support at least ten African brands both on the continent and within the diaspora. This is done to contribute to the globalization of the luxury African fashion industry. Several well-known brands, including Christie Brown, Mmuso Maxwell, Loza Maléombho, Kente Gentlemen, and Post Imperial, are just some of the companies that have benefited from this initiative.
Most recently, they announced the formation of a new group for younger fashion and accessory designers, which would be done in partnership with IFM. Armando Cabral, Chez Nous, Wanda Lephoto, Renwa, Endelea, Lafalaise Dion, Pichulik Africa, Suki Suki Naturals, Wibes Shoes, and Zyne are some of the up-and-coming fashion designers included in this category.
It may appear that much has already been done for the more mainstream companies comparable to the new brands being helped, but this is an enormous step forward that will assist the rising brands in becoming more upscale. Camélia Barbachi, a member of the cohort and the founder of the sustainable Tunisian brand Chez Nous, told OkayAfrica that “this collaboration is important because it brings us African designers together, and be able to gain more structure for our [young] businesses,” which it may seem that we lack at the moment. “This collaboration is important because it brings us African designers together,” she said.
“Also, when you don’t have the right amount of connections and mentorship, it’s very hard for you to progress in an industry like this, and this collaboration provides us with that,” says Barbachi, who is 25 years old. “This collaboration provides us that.” An accelerator and an incubation program are the two types of initiatives that Birimian has developed to fulfill its mission of fostering the growth of both up-and-coming and well-established brands.
It should come as no surprise that one of the most significant obstacles African fashion firms have is locating finance; Birimian seeks to address this void through investments in the fashion industry. Beyond this, there are larger difficulties that brands must face, such as determining how to organize their business and how to ensure that it influences on a global scale. “We’ve understood that it’s not just investment and funding; it’s also building and creating market opportunities, capacity building, and access to the right ecosystem,” says Kouassi-Olsson. “We’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s not just investment and funding.” She continues by saying that “when we started Birimian, we wanted to address all of this” — funding, exposure, public relations, production, and “really everything.”
Mmuso Maxwell, a Joburg-based brand honored with the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation earlier this year by the Woolmark Company, is one example of the extraordinary run of success that the company has enjoyed thus far. Other examples include the company’s backing of other innovative brands. The company praised Birimian’s assistance during its journey to victory and thanked them for it. Every success a record label founded by Birimian achieves results in an increase in the number of applicants, all looking for the chance to expand their operations.
Because of this, deciding who to back on the team is becoming increasingly tough. Because we are a business that seeks to make a profit, we cannot provide funding to everyone or participate in all projects. According to Kouassi-Olsson, this is where we need to identify our priorities. “As a result, the industry needs to adjust to that tension, and similarly, we [need to] adjust to the requirements and nuances of each brand.”
Because of the amount of effort, time, and resources put into these programs and investment plans, the corporation is forced to make some difficult choices regarding whether prospective applicants represent brands that can affect the entire world. Kouassi-Olsson concedes that it can be “a really difficult situation” and that the decisions that are made may not be perfect; nonetheless, this is primarily the case since, in the long term, it rests on the will and entrepreneurial drive of the designers.
In addition to this, she explains that “as investors, we never pass judgment on talent and creativity.” It is to be taken in its existing form. In terms of globalization, we place a strong emphasis on the quality of the collection structuring and the quality of the entrepreneurial drive spirit. Storytelling, powerful branding, and how the fashion company communicates with its target audience via social media all play a significant role.
It is essential to point out, despite this, that several significant platforms have offered and continue to give their services as a support system to the fashion industry on the continent. These platforms have hosted shows, competitions, funding programs, mentorship schemes, and other similar activities. For instance, South African Fashion Week hosts an event called “New Talent Search,” which brings up-and-coming firms to the forefront of public attention by allowing them to exhibit their Spring/Summer collections while also allowing them to win prize money. This honor has helped out both Thando Ntuli of Munkus and the Mmuso Maxwell brand, so congratulations to both of them!
The Fashion Focus Africa is organized during Lagos Fashion Week in Nigeria, which is a part of Style House Files. This is a competition where aspiring young designers from all over Africa come together to present their brand’s vision and compete for prize money and mentorship from established professionals in the field. Emmanuel Okoro of Emmy Kasbit and Cynthia Abila are two designers who have benefited from this trend. In a similar spirit, the Arise Fashion Week ’30 Under 30′ competition will provide various monetary awards to the winner, the first runner-up and the second runner-up, in that order. In recent years, individuals such as Kenneth Ize, Ré Lagos, and Mmuso Maxwell have been honored with this distinction.
All of these trophies, honors, grants, and opportunities to win prizes are a method to demonstrate dedication and support for fashion firms in Africa that have a clear vision and a dedicated work ethic. This commitment is taken one step further by Birimian, which collaborates not just inside fashion settings in Africa but also beyond the continent itself. In light of all of this and among other things, the ultimate goal is to establish a well-known business within the African fashion industry for its track record, impact, and influence, as well as for the important success stories it has produced. It aspires to be a reference point for the long-term growth of African creatives and talents in their respective fields.