This is the second in our feature pieces on business of Fashion in Africa. I have chosen Oliberté, not just because they are another brand that features in my coffee table book Fashion Africa but most importantly they are one that has a great story to tell in relation to Africa and production. This is the breakdown and basis of all they stand for. On interviewing them for the book I delved quite deeply and asked them about these workshops they work with
the local factories to improve their quality and enivornmental footwear – we are looking at setting up our own workshops to help move forward the footwear industry for locals in rural parts of Africa.
number one prioirty is making quality footwear that creates millions of jobs – we are about building a better africa by building a thriving middle class through shoes.
This is why I wanted to introduce you to Oliberté and asked our guest feature contributor Cynthia Anduhtabe to break the business down for you to fully understand the full supply chain of African fashion and textile brands.
You can also read our other Fashion Africa – Business Analysis reports here.
Market Positioning Analysis: Oliberté
Oliberté: This is Africa
The footwear brand with a story!
Today’s business analysis will focus on the brand positioning of the footwear company with a great story, Oliberté. Founded in February 2009 and based from Oakville, Ontario (Canada), Oliberté is the first company of its kind to market premium urban-casual footwear exclusively made in Africa. To Oliberté and its founder, Africa is “more than just poverty” and so they demonstrate Africa’s “pride, power and liberty” through their products.
When asked why Africa was the focus of the brand, the answer was all so simple – they never have and still do not see an Africa that’s categorised by negative generalisations. Oliberté believes that with the right partners, each country within Africa has the means to grow and support its people. So that’s just what they do – and why Oliberté forges partnerships with factories, suppliers, farmers and workers to produce premium footwear in Africa. They also do more than just that! They work to create fair jobs, with the goal of contributing to the development of a thriving African middle class.
According to Oliberté, the African middle class is increasing in size and one of its goals is to therefore support this growing tier by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and also encourage manufacturers from other industries to work within Africa.
31 year old proudly Canadian, Tal Dehtiar is the founder of Oliberté footwear. He is a guy who in essence has done it all. From selling sandwiches on the beaches of Chile to launching a radio station in Singapore to co‐founding and leading “MBAs Without Borders”, an international charity that supports socially‐minded businesses across 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With an MBA from McMaster University, Tal has travelled, worked, studied or lived in over 50 countries. He is a recipient of awards such as the International Youth Foundation Fellowship, Ontario Global Trader Award, Arch Award and was nominated for the YMCA Peace Award, Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and Ernst & Young’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2010, he took part in Episode 12, Season 4 of Dragon’s Den Canada shown on CBC, asking for 200K for a 30% share.
Simple with no frills.
The person who wears Oliberté is a personification and an extension of the footwear brand’s core values and attributes – simple and fuss free with a high social consciousness and a desire to see change and developments in areas that are needed.
Green – environmentally conscious
What is Market Positioning
In marketing, positioning has come to mean the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, brand, or organisation and what adds value to the customers.
It is a concept in marketing which was first introduced by Jack Trout (“Industrial Marketing” Magazine- June/1969) and then popularised by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their bestseller book “Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind.” (McGraw-Hill 1981).
What most will agree on is that “Positioning” is something (perception) that happens in the minds of the target market. It is the aggregate perception the market has of a particular company, product or service in relation to their perceptions of the competitors in the same category. It will happen whether or not a company’s management is proactive, reactive or passive about the on-going process of evolving a position. But a company can positively influence the perceptions through enlightened strategic actions.
How has Oliberté positioned itself in the mind of its target market?
They play Fair
They were aware of the challenges before them but they were also very focused in ensuring they maintained ethical practices. This means that Oliberté ensures its partners with suppliers and factories that demonstrate respect and equality in the work place for men and women.
The company carefully selects each of their partner factories based on their “play fair” motto. They continually monitor these factories to ensure they are complying with their standards and policies. In all the factories, women make up approximately 50% of the total workforce, including junior and senior administrative positions. All partner factories exceed local labour standards and workers are provided current benefits such as subsidised or free lunches, tea breaks and job security with maternity leave for women staff.
The brand also intends to further help these factories by improving on their current compensation and benefit structures through adding programs such as health and life insurance, credit savings programs and training etc.
They care about the Environment
Water: Due to the tanning process of the leather requiring a lot of water, the company specifically requires that all of their leather tanneries are either ISO 14001 certified or at minimum have water treatment plants that are constantly inspected.
Natural: They are proud that the cow, sheep and goats from which their leather is sourced have lived a life that is free range, hormone free and on average 5-6 years longer than livestock from most developed countries. For the outsoles, the brand uses natural crepe rubber tapped straight from rubber trees, which allows them to avoid using toxic equipment and chemicals commonly used in making machine-made outsoles.
Recycle: They also offer 3-way shipping which means that once the customers have enjoyed their Olibertés and if they can’t donate or reuse them, the brand will happily take them back and recycle them on their behalf.
Improvement: Oliberté definitely understands the challenges of working within Africa and to ensure their products maintain the quality that they deserve, they fly out the footwear products from the countries they are manufactured which currently presents an eco-challenge for the brand. Their goal was to find an efficient and responsible transport means with a greener solution by the end of 2011. This goal was not achieved, nevertheless, Tal Dehtiar is confident that by this time next year the company will be shipping more and if not all their goods by sea to reduce their carbon footprint.
They care about their Quality
Natural Crepe: The versatility of their natural rubber crepe soles used in their products has been noted. These have been a regular on natives of colder climates such as Canada and Russia as well as on soldiers working in hot desert climates.
Hand-Picked Leather: They hand pick each piece of leather used in their footwear and also have a quality team within each factory ensuring quality standards.
Goat Lining: Their shoes are lined with 100% goat leather allowing their clients’ feet to breathe naturally, as well as stretch and form to their foot perfectly.
Reverse Backing: The leather on the heel of each shoe is reversed, ensuring the client’s feet does not slip but provides added comfort.
Personal Touch: Special details are hand stitched or hand-guided to add that extra personal touch.
Stitch: Using a variety of stitches, the brand averages over 1,000 stitches per shoe providing extra reinforcement and allowing Oliberté shoes to rely less on glue and more on craftsmanship.
Effective brand positioning is contingent upon identifying and communicating a brand’s uniqueness, differentiation and verifiable value. Brand Oliberté has definitely understood this concept and are adequately applying this to ensure their brand’s uniqueness, differentiation and values are effectively communicated. Through this, the brand ensures that they are well positioned in the minds of their target consumer market. From client care to staff care to a special care for the environment which they work in, Oliberté seems to have a fairer vision than most brands who go especially into Africa for business.
Currently Oliberté operates in Ethiopia (new factory up this year), Liberia and Kenya with the goal of expanding to Cameroon, Congo, Uganda and Zambia in the coming years.
Though the brand currently focuses on men’s footwear, Tal Dehtiar also points out that the brand will be launching a women’s wear range from Fall 2012 (boots) and then Spring 2013 (sandals). Also on the collection will be holdall bags for both men and women as well as laptop bags (MacBook).
Where to buy Oliberté?