We spend lots of time on websites looking for the hottest new trends to purchase, but how much of that stuff is made by someone from the motherland itself.
While in Paris, Black Enterprise connected with co-founder and CEO, Moulaye Taboure to talk about why he started Afrikrea, the online mall to buy African fashion.
BE: How many products from your site are made directly in Africa?
Moulaye Taboure: That’s a very interesting, yet tricky question as some designers make their products there, at least partially and then complete it in Europe or the USA.
What I can tell with certitude is that over 1/3 of our designers (so at least 300 of them) make at least partially their products in Africa, and 100 among them are based there. Which accounts for at least 2,000 to 5,000 products.
Also, we are very proud that our best-seller is actually based in Africa, in Sénégal to be precise, so it is clearly possible!
BE: How are you sourcing the products?
Taboure: We are not “sourcing” per se, the designers come by themselves through word of mouth and are free to create their shop. On our end, we review the products created to ensure their conformity and in addition the best control is through transparency: any visitor can ask and discuss with any designer! So if a designer fails to explain his product design or composition properly or receives a bad rating, we immediately take action. The other way around is more common, the more transparent and ethical seller gets enhanced visibility and promotion from our end.
BE: What made you decide to start this platform?
Taboure: Honestly, it first started as a simple project to help artisans in Africa. I grew up in Mali, and there, like most countries in Africa, craftsmanship is dependent on tourism. When tourism stopped and people close to us started sharing the despair of the artisans, we wanted to act. Seeing the success of models such as Etsy, we knew the cultural wealth and talent inspired by Africa would develop around the world.
On a side note, what made us go from side project to total commitment was the effect it had on us, unknowingly and effortlessly. We started to push at least one piece from our designers each day! That was the ultimate proof that this was more than a business but, a real calling we had to act upon.
BE: What is your background?
Taboure: I worked for nearly five years as an IT and finance auditor and consultant in top firms like PwC or Alstom. For the last two years of that career, I had the chance to travel all around the world and review the working habits of Asians, Latin Americans, and Europeans.
This gave me an even further conviction that we, Africans, had a shot at making it big worldwide if we pushed harder than our requirements and above best practices.
BE: How seamless is it to ship to the US? Do you have any issues with sizing or exchange rates?
Taboure: It is quite seamless, especially from France (where most our designers are based) but also in West Africa, thanks to lightened custom requirements enacted by the AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act].
Sizing can be tricky for sure as all clothing businesses, but thanks to the direct contact and customization inherent to our platform, we have less than 10% returns. Designers generally take the time to get further measurements from the clients to ensure maximum satisfaction, and that is the heart of our convivial experience.
What a gem to find out that we can access African trends internationally with very little hassle. I copped a super cute jacket from them and I will say, the sizes run a little smaller than here in the U.S. The story behind my swag is that it was made, one part in Paris, one part in Johannesburg and that is something to brag about.
If you are interested in doing some shopping with the Motherland in mind, click here.