It’s that time of the month again when our branding, marketing and communications consultant Cynthia Anduhtabe gives us her analysis of African fashion brands from a business and marketing perspective. This month we feature a label that could be considered a pioneer in African fashion – Sika Designs
A FASHION ANALYSIS: SIKA
My focus this month is on a well known brand from the industry that has steadily been building up a fan base and a reputation across the fashionable taste buds around the globe.
So join me while I take a look.
SIKA was formed in 2006 from a true passion for fashion. The label operates from London and Ghana, with 12 people working in Ghana and 3 employed in the UK. The brand takes pride in its ethical status by ensuring that they keep sourcing all their materials and fabrics from local traders and stockists as well as produce their products in Ghana, thus encouraging local trade and employment. Recently, the brand was awarded the Ethical fashion forum innovation project award.
33 year old Phyllis Taylor was born in the UK to Ghanaian parents. From a young age, Phyllis loved the colourful prints of West African clothing; especially from her native Ghana, and dreamed of seeing them used not only in traditional dresses but also in garments that her peers would wear.
She studied music and performing arts before taking courses in dressmaking and pattern-cutting at the London College of Fashion. A trip to Ghana ensued and the rest as they say is history.
International chic with a modern African twist.
The woman who wears SIKA can be evaluated as an elegant, confident, internationally curious woman with an eclectic wardrobe who understands fashion, loves to be stylish yet on her own terms and does not necessarily follow the trends.
- Excellent workmanship
- Modern (designs)
How does SIKA add Value?
Within 5 years, SIKA has managed to amass a following that is not just centrally African but typically mainstream.
The brand does not do fashion events (Arise Fashion Week in Jo’burg in 2009 may be their only fashion show to date) yet are still associated with all the chic and glamour and internationally renowned press houses such as Vogue (Italia, Japan, USA online), The Guardian, Marie Claire, The Sunday Times, Washington Post, New York Metro etc, have all come calling for a feature.
The brand’s main flagship store has always been located around the leafy yet yuppie and wealthy, family orientated area of Greenwich, South East London. The brand started out with a market location but has now moved into a luxuriously decorated “Pandora’s box” on the main high street. The look is simple yet chic, clutter free, with a subtle fusion of the old era and the new; reminiscing on their 50’s/60’s inspired dresses.
How is SIKA using its brand’s image to differentiate itself from its competitors?
In the African fashion market, the perceived uniqueness that exists within mainstream; that is allowing one label to differ itself from another, is a huge negative in our brand’s favour.
However, to combat this issue and to ensure brands visibility to their target market/public; a few brands within the industry such as Christie Brown, Ituen Basi, Eki Orleans, JBL, Mina Evans etc have taken to creating their own fabric thus injecting their own stamps/footprint on the minds of their target clients.
SIKA is no exception. The brand does not yet produce its own fabric however still ensures that the fabric they use for their products are unique and specific to their brand.
The brand’s reminiscing 50’s/60’s cut and wrap dresses as well as their collection campaigns/images also ensures differentiation, fuelling popularity and giving them a different focus and appeal from the rest in the industry.
SIKA’s Marketing Techniques.
SIKA employs little or no marketing strategy despite the success of the brand thus far. They use social mediums such as Twitter and Facebook but are on the lower scale in terms of usage.
They also use blogs and online sites that attract fashion enthusiasts especially from the African community. Most of their press mentions have come from the brand’s own reputation coupled with their excellent workmanship, product quality and great reviews.
What other means of advertising and promotion could they employ?
The lack of branded adverts and product placements is another seemingly unemployed means of promotion that most African fashion brands don’t use. Whilst some brands are making the effort to look for alternative ways to reach their target markets and expose themselves, most are still doing nothing and/or are relying heavily on word of mouth or only social networking sites. The latter mediums are great for introducing a brand but do nothing to maintain the profile of a brand and its branding reputation especially in the minds of the target audience.
Some suggestions which could be suitable for SIKA’s image are as per below.
- Product placements – when a product or brand is embedded in entertainment and media. What SIKA could do here is target some leading personalities such as Solange Knowles or even Rihanna through their stylists for maximum exposure. Nollywood actress Genevieve Nnaiji or even Menaye Donkor who are slowly building up a reputable brand of their own. With the rise of the number of reputable films within the African industry and television series in America and the UK, the brand could plug their SIKA home furnishings here thus gaining them maximum visibility. Providing dresses for a series like “Mad Men” for example could proof lucrative for the brand.
- Billboard & Mobile Board advertising – many mainstream brands are using these to ensure maximum outreach. This means of advertising is no stranger to the brand. They recently used a billboard facility in the heart of Accra to advertise their Bow boutique. The brand could also use this to plug their new collections/range or an advertising message/campaign to stay relevant in the minds of their target audience.
- Celebrity branding – this type of advertising focuses upon using celebrity power, fame and popularity to gain recognition for their products. The brand specifically pays the celebrity to be seen in their product. In this case, the right celebrity has to be vetted to ensure that they are in keeping with the primary focus of the brand.
By increasing their advertising and promotion mediums/concepts as well as their network of contacts, SIKA should reap the benefits and totally differentiate itself from its competitors however funding/financial investment within the African fashion brands remains one of the biggest obstacles. Nonetheless, SIKA seems like a brand that is not looking to build up hype around their brand, they seem content with slow and steady success.
SIKA’s Distribution Channels
The brand is very much in control of where they are stocked. All resellers are vetted to ensure they meet the standards of the brand’s reputation. The brand currently does not wholesale especially to online sites as they want to ensure that they are the only ones selling their products online.
However, the brand is currently sold in Ghana through their Bow Boutique in Accra. In boutiques in New York, Australia, Tokyo etc
They also hope to be stocked around Africa.
Little Miss Sika: beautiful signature dresses for the little darlings at a pop of about £50.
Sika Signature Home: beautifully marrying handpicked prints with raw silks, satins and French organza to create a contemporary collection of print inspired interior furnishings.
Sika Bridal Service: ready to wear bridal dresses are designed to complement all wedding occasions from civil unions to traditional church weddings.
In conclusion, SIKA is a brand that is very much aware of its destination. Their branding is very much on point coupled with their excellent product quality and their pricing strategy. The one area which the brand could do with stepping up is their communication outreach with their audience. Whilst building up a reputable brand it is also essential to remain available to your clients. Nevertheless, many other brands within the African fashion industry could do with using SIKA as a case study on how to build a solid brand reputation.
Bow Boutique website store: http://www.bowboutiqueaccra.com/index.html
(With thanks to Sika.co.uk, BBC.co.uk, Vogue Italia online & catchavibe.co.uk)
Author: Cynthia Anduhtabe