There are various ways this article could have been written, harsh or with a very understanding approah, but due to direct experience had with a few of the African print swimwear brands and their arrogance experienced (which is fairly common with a good number of designers in our industry that have touched a bit of success) I decided to go as it is.
Some where along the lines of 2015, we took it upon ourselves to promote as much print swimwear images we could find from runway shows in Africa. This was inline with our season magazine at the time ‘Body Beautiful’. The print swimwear resonated with our 1 million followers on facebook and from there on print swimwear began to go viral by images. I mean, African fashion was viral and beautiful black women will always go viral to.
Later in 2016, it seems a lot more African print brands had emerged and however there was very little nationwide support, or in some cases even though some had their markets, there was a wide range of the public that didn’t know their brand names. So we created the article ‘See The Sexiest #AfricanFashion Swimwear Going VIRAL! Where To Buy Them And The 11 Labels Behind Them’. This also further inspired more top swimwear articles and the African swimwear brands started getting highly recognized.
Later in the year, when it seems like things were booming for their brands, we tried to engage with them to see how possible it was to retail their designs on our online boutique based on the demand we were receiving from our FashionGHANA audience. Unfortunately the response was very negative and in some cases arrogant.
It seemed like things were going so well most would not even reply to any such messages. After all, why should a third party make money of their creativity. You know the saying “You weren’t with me from the start so don’t need to be with me now”. Most only wanted to retail their clothes on their own online platform and extract all possible proceeds from it as much as possible. “Sorry Mr Online Boutique, but if someone wants this beautiful creation I made, you will not benefit, tell them to come to me, and if you don’t who cares, I’ve got my clients” A common and rampant mentality and attitude that sores across a large part of our African fashion world.
Their brand names were growing and their designs were getting far as far as social media (facebook and instagram) was concerned. However, something happened in 2017….and it was the Chinese! Yes the all mighty China, they dip their hands in everything, and little do we know African prints swimwear was one of them. What was even shocking about their move is they literally copied the styles of some of these brands and duplicated them in mass amounts.
The question is how did the Chinese manage to outsell the original brands? Simple, they approached almost every online boutique they could find even the ones that literally had poorly designed websites. We know because we were also receiving mails from random Chinese manufacturers to retails their African print swimwear. ‘Funny Right?’ So if you were ever anywhere, or a client of any online boutique, or a receiver of their forward mail, or just googling for these swimwear looks, guess which source you will engage with first? CHINA! or at least an outlet selling theirs.
The arrogance played and the methods rejected by a lot of the African swimwear brand owners which could have been inspired by greed, was the same tactic used by the Chinese to overtake their business with THEIR designs. Most people don’t know the African swimwear bikinis they are wearing are made in China, what is even worst, they don’t even know they are designs own by other African designers duplicated without permission by companies in China.
With the exception of demands African swimwear brands create for themselves on their social media pages, the battle is a lost cause. The dire to be the sole beneficiary to reap all proceeds of their work worked against them, yes they are making some money here and there, but nothing like the Chinese are milking of their designs. The two essential lessons to be learnt is 1/ Patent your designs, yes take the time to do it, you wouldn’t loose a lifetime of business with a 30 day delay. 2/ Stop being arrogant! Learn to work with others even if it reduces your profit per item. The more items sold via alternative channels will increase your profit over all. It doesn’t mean if 50 items are sold a day over 5 outlets, then if you cut those outlets out all 50 consumers will purchase off you, you have no idea their means to reach out to their own clients.
I will promise you today, none of the known African swimwear brands have approached alternative online boutiques, none of these swimwear brands have approached real boutiques, and even if they have, they haven’t acknowledged these outlets on their website or social media, and I bet you, majority of them have rejected online boutique collaborations, but the Chinese won’t.