Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


October 10th, 2012

The Evolution of Pop-Up African Fashion Shops – FASHION AFRICA BUSINESS ANALYSIS

Cynthia Anduhtabe is a branding, marketing and communications consultant, as well as running her own blog Fah-schyon Cynthia is a guest contributor for Africa Fashion Guide to bring you an in-depth analysis of Africa fashion brands as we aim to bring you more about the business of fashion in Africa and what it takes to be successful.


Despite the constricting economy around the world, one thing that is still on a major turnaround is the appetite of global fashion lovers towards the upkeep of their image and their style. They say look good to feel good and this saying is definitely so. Despite a decrease in job numbers and the availability of disposable income, many seem to still find a way to buy the next new outfit or accessories.

Today I will be discussing the rise of “Pop Up” shops; a phenomenon that has taken over the 2000’s and is still on the rise, as a business option for new retailers and a possibility for brands from Africa.

With soaring rental prices and many businesses unfolding in the high street under the pressure of the shaky economy, many retailers and business owners are ever on the  lookout for cost effective marketing options to bring their products to the public and therefore grow their businesses.

In fashion, arts and the restaurant world, the idea of a “Pop-Up” space is fast becoming the new norm enabling the availability of a certain genre of food or arts or fashion items to the masses. Pop-Up spaces are lasting anything from a day to even over six months as seen in the collaboration a few years ago between the fashion brand Fondazione Prada and Momo’s restaurateur owner in a restaurant project entitled “The Double Club” in Islington.

In the fashion world, we have come to see exclusive brands creating pop-up spaces as a way of bringing their products to a particular area, or as a way to introduce a collaboration project or a new item on the market. Internationally renowned luxury brand Louis Vuitton opened up pop-up spaces in New York, Tokyo and Singapore to introduce their partnership with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Chanel also came to town when the major brand opened its first stand alone British beauty store in the heart of Covent Garden this year. The brand also created pop-up stores in Saint Tropez and Cannes last year ensuring they keep their VIP clientele pampered and replenished thus maintaining their brand reputation.

In the African fashion retail world, this trend is fast becoming a gateway to where many brands within the industry can reach out to their audience and market their products. Increasingly, many retailers and business owners selling fashion pieces from designers within this industry or emerging designers with no major investors are using this option to create buzz, sell and grow their business.

Within this article, I will be looking at a few pop-up shops that have recently taken place around the globe such as:-

  • Soboye:

Based at Shoreditch, Soboye, the temporary shop launched in July 26 and remained open throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games until September 19, selling African-inspired fashion, jewellery, accessories and more.

The shop was turned into a visual feast of colour and textures with stunning jewellery pieces from Anita Quansah London and some beautiful Perspex pieces from new designer Adjoa Acquah of Joansu, fashion items from Nkwo, Chinakwe and Chichia as well as footwear brands Dionne Gooding and Mo’Saique also made the list.

Incredible art pieces and accessories from across Africa were showcased as well umbrellas and accessories from, Ayo Binitie II and Babatunde, a brand based in Johannesburg. Striking cushions from Eva Sonaike added some comfort to the event as well as some furniture from blossoming new kid on the furniture scene; Yinka designs.

Items by Soboye´s creative director, Samson Soboye, were also available. The Nigerian designer, who opened his self-titled boutique in 2002, has also worked for The Guardian and The Independent, among other publications, and taught at the London College of Fashion.

  • Merchants On Long:

Merchants On Long, Cape Town’s most enchanting concept store, popped up in London residing at like-minded luxury showroom, The Shop At Bluebird on Kings Road from 2 May to 16 June of this year bringing with it a selection of made in Africa fashion and lifestyle items hand selected by Merchants On Long’s creative director Hanneli Rupert.

Brands on display included Patrick Mavros, Suno, LemLem, Sawa and Lalesso. The Johannesburg born designer is no stranger to London, having studied here and lived across Europe before returning to Cape Town to establish the store and handbag line Okapi in 2010.

Through Okapi he met an incredible network of designers within Africa striving to achieve a common goal of creating artisanal and luxurious African merchandise. He couldn’t however find a store specialising in selling these products and therefore decided to open one himself.

"African fashion luxury concept store Merchants on Long pops up at The Shop at Bluebird"..

"African fashion luxury concept store Merchants on Long pops up at The Shop at Bluebird"..

When asked why a pop up? Here’s Rupert’s reason: “There is a growing interest in African luxury internationally and many of our clientele are based in Europe. I don’t have plans to franchise Merchants On Long, as I want to stay true to it being a destination store. So the pop up at Bluebird is a great way to juxtapose some of our top local brands, which haven’t been sold abroad before, with internationally successful labels. I want to showcase exceptional African products to an internationally-minded consumer.” (Courtesy of Arise)

  • Buki Akib X Darkroom:

This collaborative pop up project between Buki Akib and Darkroom was to launch her “Wives” bag collection in London from 24th May – 7th June 2012.

Buki Akib is a Nigerian-born knitwear designer who graduated from Central Saint Martins and now splits her time between London and Lagos. Her eclectic mix of textures, pattern and colour captures a unique African style that has long been an obsession of Darkroom.

The “Wives” collection offers luxury women’s bags inspired by the extravagant Fela Kuti and his twenty-seven wives. Using an explosive palette and contrasting textures, the bags offer a celebration of sensuality and individuality in honour of the lustrous world inside Fela’s Shrine. Each bag captures the essence of each of his wives; from the delicate Tola clutch comprising gold silk yarns and dusty lurex, to the bold graphic patterns of the Funmilayo bag. The Sandra bag features long sensuous tasselled fringing in sandy gold, whilst each piece is knitted with Buki’s signature use of traditional Yoruba hand weaving of South Western Nigeria.

Darkroom were extremely excited to be working with Buki and were particularly proud to support her use of Nigerian based artisan weavers who hand-made the each of the wonderful bags.

Their window installation featured the bags, alongside garments from her mind blowing “Fela” menswear collection.

  • SupAfrik:

SuperAfrik sets up a physical pop-up shop/gallery lasting anywhere from a week to a few months featuring the works of some of the artists and brands featured on their blog.

The pop-up is a travelling caravan of some sort rotating through different cities across Canada. The previous one took place in the heart of Toronto’s fashion district from July 26 to August 4 of this year featuring London based ethical label Chichia London as well as Parisian based AITF crew whose range of T shirts promote a positive thinking towards the African continent.


Chichia London for Supafrik Canada African Fashion Pop Up Shop

Chichia London for Supafrik Canada African Fashion Pop Up Shop

  • My Asho:

My Asho, an online retailer developed in 2008 to celebrate and promote the talent of designers from Africa based around the world providing the best in authentic African inspired designs, has been for the last 2 years popping up in London’s Notting Hill during the Christmas rush.

Knowing how much money is spent on the high streets during this period; the retailer gives access to fashionistas the possibility of checking through the racks and purchasing beautiful pieces from renowned designers from Africa such as Jewel by Lisa, Christie Brown, Tiffany Amber, Zebra etc.

The space is usually beautifully arranged to give the shopper a unique and relaxing shopping experience.

My Asho shop front

My Asho shop close up

These pop up spaces within the African fashion industry especially prove to be beneficiary for the business owners as well as the brands involved giving them an opportunity to maximise outreach and improve their marketing.

With the lack of funding within the industry at present, and a low number of brands that actually own a point of sale spot such as Ohema Ohene in Brixton, Jewel by Lisa and Deola Sagoe in Lagos, Nigeria or Christie Brown in Accra, it is clear that this option proves to be cost effective for many.

As a business owner or a brand looking to explore the pop up idea, here are a few tips!

  • Choose a suitable location with great traffic flow.

  • Make sure it has your target crowd.

  • Make use of blogs and social media to advertise your pop up.

  • Make use of the space; a well thought out interior can attract the crowd.

  • Price accordingly!

  • Giveaways? If you have some, great!

  • Be friendly!

  • Keep a contact list of all those who come into the store. This will be great for follow up.

  • Have your business card ready to hand out.

Until the next post!

Author details:

Cynthia Anduhtabe

Branding/Marketing/Communications Consultant

Twitter: @Brownschuga



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One Comment

  1. peye

    great article. Something definitely worth thinking about. I’ll read more about pop up shops.

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