A look book has the power to turn a fashion blogger into a spokesperson and an independent designer into a household name. But for entrepreneurs Aaron Kohn and Phil Sandick, starting African Lookbook in 2011 was just another way to share stories. “I was living in Botswana for a couple of years, and then it really hit me how powerful oral history is in bringing together underrepresented, or underreported, groups,” says Sandick, a law student at Northwestern University.
The online platform features exclusive interviews with leading African designers and creative entrepreneurs. The stories shared are a reflection of new and old design traditions, serving as a way to connect artistic narratives with leading universities and research institutions. But documenting oral histories is just one part of the site’s overall goal to expand the reach of African-made design products worldwide.
With African Lookbook, users are able to easily browse through a selection of carefully curated items such as a vintage crochet bag or a Merino wool sweater (often spotted on the streets of Johannesburg). BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the entrepreneurial duo to discuss the importance of African art, how they balance school with their venture, and how teamwork makes the dream work.
The Trust Factor
Managing a startup is no small feat when you attend school full time. Based in New York, Kohn is wrapping up a bachelors degree in African Studies at Columbia University, while Sandick, who lives in Chicago, is in the midst of completing a JD-LLM dual-degree program in International Human Rights.
But finding a way to work around busy schedules has become routine for Kohn and Sandick. Trusting each other’s understanding of client relationships goes a long way in using time more efficiently. “We are partners on this… I [always] check in with Phil in the evenings to make sure everything is on the right track,” says Kohn.