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Retailing African Fashion Online: A movement towards a Global Fashion Culture?



There has been a notable increase in the amount of online retail stores stocking African fashion. BN explores this developing market and its implications for the African Fashion Industry.

The growth of the African fashion industry has been immerse in these past years and what’s more exciting is its recognition in the global fashion industry with events like ARISE, African designers like Deola Sagoe showing on international runways and the industry embracing the spirit of our fabrics. But is this enough to claim global recognition? How accessible are African designer garments to the international public?

The beauty of online shopping is that it eliminates geographical constraints; changing the consumer and physical store relations to that of transparency and while international fashion brands capitalized on this phenomenon, “African designer brands were not yet covered, there was a gap in the market” as Sylvia Gruber the Managing Director of puts it.

In an online interview with Dolapo Shobanjo, the entrepreneur behind, when I asked when she realised it was time for a store like My Asho; she writes: “I wanted to buy a dress (I think it was by Tiffany Amber) which I’d seen featured in an event shown on Ben TV in the UK. I realised it would be such a hassle to get the dress except I was in Nigeria, and even then, it would just be stressful because it wouldn’t be guaranteed that the dress would be at the Tiffany Amber Store. It was just long and my friend (who’s not Nigerian) was like, don’t these designers have websites? And at the time they didn’t. A lot has changed since then.’’

Yes, a lot has changed! These changes are evident with online African fashion retail stores like MyAsho and Africhic, thelookbookboutique and Ladyee Boutique which stock selected African designers like Chichialondon and Zebra respectively, the recently launched ASOS Africa and small designers like Marie-Christine Quenneville who retail their African inspired collections in online platforms like etsy.

MyAsho stocks various African designer brands from South African Thula Sindi to Ghanaian Christie Brown with the slogan; “Local Fashion Made Global’’. Africhic which describes itself as a “global portal into a new African world of design” is another leading online retail store that focuses on promoting and selling South African designer brands, with a future plan to extend this courtesy to “many more designers from Africa locally as well as globally’’. Although online retailing of African fashion gives the African Diaspora immediate access to their local designer brands, it is not essentially a response to consumer demand for African fashion but more of a way to create that demand and move African fashion beyond the “curators exhibitionism’’ in the global fashion industry. As Sylvia of Africhic explains; “From my overseas research African fashion still has a very ethnic connotation and tourists take maybe the odd springbok bag or other touristy accessories back home but are not exposed to or know about the real creativity and talent ’’.

So are these online African fashion retail stores necessary to push our fashion industry past the African borders? It’s a unanimous yes with Africhic, MyAsho and Wande of Ladyee boutique who says: “It opens the designers up to tons of other fashion lovers who wouldn’t have access to or knowledge of these African designers otherwise. I would say it’s very important and essential actually“.

The launch of ASOS Africa generated a lot of media attention. ASOS is UK’s second largest online fashion retailer and offers own-label and branded fashion goods. The ASOS Africa collection was sourced, designed and produced in collaboration with several small communities in Africa; providing employment for the locals. The collection is aimed at supporting trade in Africa, however can we say that this is a development that will draw attention to the African fashion industry? “Not necessarily. They’ve just used African fabrics and produced in Kenya. The African fashion industry is a lot more involved than fabrics and fair-trade factories. ASOS Africa, as of now, has only tapped into a fraction of the entire industry – production and textiles. To my knowledge, they didn’t use any African designers. But I’m sure, having seen the success of their ASOS Africa range, they might consider becoming more involved in the African fashion industry’’ says Dolapo of MyAsho, who also acknowledges that “ASOS has proven there is a market for these things”. How big and diverse is the market for African fashion?

Marie-Christine was born and currently lives in Montréal, Canada. She is the owner of a small fashion label called LesEnfantsSauvages and sells her collections on etsy. She primarily uses African fabrics which she loves for its “slight exuberance, bold print and bright colours’’. When asked about the response of consumers to her pieces she says; “I created the first dress with Holland wax print last spring, that I called the Éthiopique dress, in reference to the music, rather than the Country of origin. It is a simple everyday little summer dress that was a huge success at my level; people just loved it’’ and on the country she receives the most orders from; “well, my online sale website is American so they are top, and recently I receive a lot of orders from Australia’’.

This is a similar trend with Africhic. Sylvia mentions; “We just started off in December 09 and interestingly without advertising there is a high generic search from US, the UK as well as Canada directed to us. We are getting many orders already from US and UK. Due to being in SA and receiving lots of press there, we are still getting most orders from SA, but we intend to start advertising overseas and we expect the overseas orders to soon overcome the local ones.’’

These online retail stores undoubtedly expose African fashion to a larger audience and the response to their emergence has been positive, also from an ethical perspective. ASOS with its promotion of fair trade and the establishment of the SOKO workshop, and Africhic which insists that every item stocked “has to be made in Africa and the designers should also be interested in advancing local communities with their work – for example, Missibaba works closely with a township called Kayamandi training a group of ladies to bead the necklaces. Philippa Green trains a group of ladies in a township in Hout Bay to produce the stitched cuffs and embroidered cuffs line”.

The availability of African fashion in online retail stores proves to be more than an effort to profit from consumer culture. While international brands swiftly moved along with technological developments due to their well structured and fore-front fashion industries, African fashion in comparison is yet to realize its full potential. What these stores are likely to create is an avenue for African fashion to be explored, displaying our “wealth of talent” in Sylvia’s words. However, “I don’t feel it’s the only way forward. There are more avenues other than online sales, and I think people should be creative in looking for ways to promote the African fashion movement’’ says Dolapo of MyAsho.

With these new crop of sites retailing African fashion in various shapes and forms, we can only hope it instigates the need to explore other avenues and make concrete the international recognition African fashion most certainly deserves!

Shop these pieces from the featured online African fashion retail stores:

Chichialondon Fringe detail Khanga print and solid Tunic

Chichialondon Fringe detail Khanga print and solid Tunic

Purchase @ thelookboutique for £90

Roho dress from Lalesso

Roho dress from Lalesso

Purchase @ Africhic for $123

Christie Brown Print SP Dress

Christie Brown Print SP Dress

Purchase @ MyAsho for £185

Zebra Marrakech Shirt Dress

Zebra Marrakech Shirt Dress

Purchase @ Ladyee Boutique for $56

 Printed Playsuit

Printed Playsuit

Purchase @ ASOS Africa for $84.55

LesEnfantsSauvages Africanista summer dress

LesEnfantsSauvages Africanista summer dress

Purchase @ Etsy for $90


  1. Lynda

    April 12, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    This is nice and a huge step to African fashion. I can’t wait to do some shopping on some of these websites.

  2. AfricanChic

    April 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Why are some of these things so darn expensive? Not everyone wants to show off by buying too-expensive stuff geez!!

  3. SistaUSA

    April 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Again, Bella thanks for posting this information. You’re always on “point” with the most updated info. in entertainment, fashion etc. I live in the U.S. and have gone through great efforts to obtain clothing by African designers ( e-mails, shipping and so on…). Oh but it’s worth it. The style, cut and colors are always perfect for my body type and compliment by skin tone. I find in America the clothing appears more suitable for those of European descent. This includes some of the more popular “so called” urban lines. Cheers to Akpos Okudu !!!!, Tiffany Amber and Myasho for bridging the gap!

    • Stellarita

      January 7, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Hello sistausa, you can also check through this website for some classy pieces and we stock in Houston, Texas and can ship to you. USA contact is +1 469 9528252

  4. wayfarer

    April 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    my sentiments especially, it prolly cost them cheap labour and ankara is cheap…..tooo expensive in as much as i would like to support my fellow african designers, i find them over priced. for exmaple, i want to make ankara dress for a wedding, bcos the tailor has a brand and fancy business card, they want to charge £50 or even £60 to sew a basic dress,which doesnt include the fabric oo, i might as well go to h&m and get a nice dress for £34.99.. and even if something happens to the dress, i can take it back to h&m for a refund…the problem most time is these ppl cant sew , so they call themselves designer, pay someone to sew and share the money. well i have smarten up have a few tailors on dial, no fancy business cards, and they do amazing job for a reasonable price.

  5. Betty Boop

    April 13, 2010 at 12:18 am

    The sad part in all of these is – the cut isn’t that great too. My seamstress can sew better than this. And no, I’m not hating. If they’re trying to be desingers of renown and so are charging high prices, then their work should reflect it. The reason people spend so much on Gucci and those brands is because of the quality assurance. Why are all theses 2-by-4 people charging so much for inferior workmanship? You think if Chanel produced clothes as shoddy as the ones above people would keep buying at such high prices just because of the brand name? Hell No. We have to learn to back up our claims. I can see why Tiffany Amber, Deola Sagoe and a few fashion brands charge so much – I can see the workmanship, and so I’ll go for their brand name. The clothes up on this post though – heck no! My seamstress will do it better and charge less. Maybe I should encourage her to get into this business. She is divine, and she sure as heck can do it better than what I’ve seen here.

  6. ola

    April 13, 2010 at 1:42 am

    You took the words right out of my mouth. These websites are probably not targeting African’s because I doubt most people like me would by ankara for these prices when they know how much the fabric and labor costs.

  7. africhic

    April 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

    As one of the retailers mentioned I just want to take the opportunity to address some of the comments made on price points. I agree that some of the items are expensive yet we for example make sure that there is no production done in China or other outsourcing countries which is why you pay less for H&M etc…Even the top end brands/upmarket brands produce in cheap production countries and sweatshops. If you really want to support Africa and support creation of employment then I think it is essential to accept that production in Africa is more expensive and unfortunately trade acts are still not really favorable to export (especially from SA to US) so import duties make the clothing more expensive than they would be if you lived in Africa…

    This is a game of demand and supply – so the more the demand grows the cheaper the designers can produce ultimately.
    For questions on ethical fashion please read our blogposts here

  8. Woman

    April 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Lawddddddd this things are expensive!!!! by the time I convert my Canadian dollars to this heavy pounds, I’ll be broke na…. all for one tiny dress…. Thanks o, but I’ll support my local tailor when I travel home

  9. Abisoye

    April 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    In an ideal world this is great news…however I think African online fashion retailers should be looking into at four factors before they consider going into the business

    1) your true customers (not your friends and family) and profile them thoroughly
    2) the nature of your products offering
    3) your supply chain (logistics, distribution and fulfilment and returns logistics)
    4) True cost of Effective Marketing

    I would first like to clarify that the move by ASOS should not really excite entrepreneurs because i strongly believe is not a profit making move (its to make the brand look good) and ASOS did not start by selling unknown brands so don’t get excited

    I believe (i might be wrong) majority of African abroad would not pay the type of prices you have on those cloths for African attire that is off the shelf. I don’t know about your target market but i know Nigerians in England are always looking for a bargain and they would only pay premium for Gucci because its Gucci. African consumers don’t care about fair trade, going green or sweat shops all they care about is the product looking good and cheap (might i add that they would not like their mates to know where they bought it)

    The truth is that consumers don’t care (please look up M&S case study on how they moved production outside England because they could not compete)

    I think any on-line entrepreneur looking to sell African cloths on-line needs to seriously look at its business model seriously (price would always be a major factor with Africans) I know the idea is very exciting but its could be frustrating.

    Thread carefully and seek expert advice, you don’t want to see your investment go down the drain (i have). And lastly make sure there is true integration with the designers you stock (This is the most important factor).

    Best wishes

  10. M!zz Char

    April 13, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Come on people Ankara and kitenge may be cheap but if you add the price of labour, workshops, mass production and tax you will understand these prices, unless you want them to pay their workers pennies like they do over in china. I support African designers and I support fair trade and you should too.

    As for the workmanship and quality; designers like Chichia london and Christie Brown have some amazing quality and detail and if your seamstress can do that then yes, maybe she needs to get into this business.

    Koodos to the designers and Koodos to the retailers bridging the gap. Keep at it!

  11. M!zz Char

    April 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    P.S I am an African in the UK and I own both Chichia and Christie garments…all purchased online….proof there is a market for it out there.

  12. wayfarer

    April 14, 2010 at 1:01 am

    all points taken on board, but you need to prove to me that these so called designers that cant sew and just pay ppl to do stuff for them and take the glory are paying their workers enough…do they even support fair trade themselves? i bet they dont …they just want make big bucks and pay the poor women the sew the stuff chicken change
    Especially in africa where there are no laws protecting the poor woman sewing for the designer . Trust me i know what am talking about. Dont get me wrong good business and stuff but needs to be done appropriatly! i will pay £100 for these things if i know for sure that these ppl are following the right step and paying their workers well enough.

  13. wayfarer

    April 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    would u pay 84.99 for that printed play suit sold at Asos…its less than 3 yards of ankara, what kind of labour will make the price go so high? need i say businesses dont pay as much as normal everyday ppl pay for shipping goods…Economy of SCALE!!

  14. SistaUSA

    April 14, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Please… stop complaining about prices. While some will almost “kill” to buy Chanel,LV, DG, and so on… Show a little support by keeping your negative comments to yourself. I feel these sites are mainly for those who live abroad and have limited or no access to this clothing. Hopefully, one day people will have the same pride wearing TAN or Zebra. If you can buy ankara and have your dress made cheaper, do so, but show respect to these designers PLEASE!!! Folks why must we continue to behave like “crabs in a bucket” ???

  15. lola

    April 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    err i think everyone has the right to freedom of speech! its up to u, to do watever u want with it

  16. china africa logistics

    April 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

    To be honest you cannot beat the services or the people that I have dealt with. I am really satisfied with my fashion. fashion is the next killer ap.

  17. Kay

    April 16, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Abisoye n Wayfarer, i’m totally feeling ur points, sense well made! we need to get reasonable, as my mama says…’African especially Nigerian business methods, no dey book’, u need to get down wit the people n wat they really want… that’s of course if u want to secure a large market share, if not…carry on doin wat u do…cheers!

  18. ogo

    April 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I think you’re missing the point. The point is that some (hopefully ALL) of the designers are paying a LIVING WAGE not peanuts like most Naija employers. Imagine if a man or woman could work and AFFORD comfortable rental, good food, PUREWATA and to EDUCATE his/her/their children. That is why people like my are so hype over these designers. I know Adama of Aschobi for one is doing something for her ppl. And no her stuff ain’t cheap b/c you ARE NOT going to see it on anyone you KNOW. It’s the wow effect. The price means you don’t buy 10 dresses just one special one… I hope I’ve clarified b/c I hate that ppl don’t get it. Yes ankara is cheap but TASTE, one-off designs and a LIVING WAGE is NOT.

  19. ogo

    April 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you! I completely agree! There are things that I have sewn and there is ankara designs that I buy… why must I abuse a designer b/c I recognize the categories sha? But then I’m preaching to the choir here!

  20. ogo

    April 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    First of all, you are talking about Asos w/ a lady from a different company (africhic). Secondly, not everyone is a liar and a hypocrite. Thirdly, not all African designers are NIGERIAN. Would you be shocked if there really were some ETHICAL designers? That means people who are paying their workers a living wage. Everyone has a choice to buy or not buy but you are abusing the names of these designers when you DO NOT KNOW. Why don’t you ask if you are so curious? I have met one or two so that is why I talk. And yes, I know the price of ankara etc. Here is an interview w/ a young lady who moved back to her country & EDUCATED & EMPLOYED ppl. Next you will say that Africans never help each other. Haba! Let those how wan buy, BUY!–mQSUY&feature=related

  21. Sonia

    June 7, 2010 at 2:56 am

    I would love to purchase from But, alas, I am not a US size 12. My waisteline is a US 12, but my bustline is a US 16. Do you have women’s clothing for women such as myself?

    Even if you don’t, the fashions are smashing!!

  22. Chi Bly

    February 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I am searching to purchase several fancy clothing for the new season. This kind of idea looks truly neat, probably I will proceed with buy.

  23. Tisha

    December 2, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I personally adore African fashion, brings so much vibrance, colour and excitement to our wardrobes. The African designers designers today are really making a satement! I do wish however that some designer pieces were at more affordable prices for the masses. I came across an African design label called Chika Couture and bought a beautiful shirt at their website and they seem to be one of the only African inspired labels ive come across with very affordable prices and im talking under £45. African designers should should just keep it up, they are all doing fantastically well!

  24. glenvic

    June 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    i have nice africa men wear available

  25. Styles Afrik

    September 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Hello Bella, Great article however slightly outdated, fancy doing another article on this. Please check out we would love to do a feature with you.

  26. Amiga

    July 25, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    There is another fashion place that sells exclusively African printed clothing that I have shopped at they sell a good range although they are a little expensive it maybe because they sell in british pounds.

  27. 4ey_fashion

    August 1, 2018 at 11:42 am

    check our page on Instagram @4ey_fashion and @ujuestelo
    we make casual, corporates and cocktail outfits that are stylish, trendy and affordable. we also infused ankara into our designs to make stylish dresses. They are also professionally designed and tailored to fit women of all sizes both locally and internationally. We use quality materials and tailor them perfectly.  Check us out. you won’t regret it.

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