Geleyi is an up and coming African fashion marketplace for emerging talent which is due to launch in November. Meaning this woman’s head wrap in Yoruba, the term symbolises the hallmark and spirit of Geleyi and aims to redefine African fashion. In this special interview, I spoke with one the founders, Maki, who discussed Geleyi’s love for Duro Olowu, partnerships and emerging talent.
The U.S based company was established by co-founders Maki and Dele who met at a start-up conference in Boston. “We met because neither of us found the particular discussions in the conference interesting so we decided to hang out in the lounge space for a while”. After exchanging thoughts and ideas, they both discovered similar entrepreneurial attitudes and complementary skills. “Dele has been an active follower of the African fashion scene in the U.S and around the globe.” Says Maki. “He is also very passionate about bespoke designs and is a self-taught tailor as well.” The duo feed off each other and feels like Maki and Dele meeting was meant to be. “The serendipitous encounter with Dele has opened up my eye to the inspiring eclectic style of Africa fashion and has convinced me to combine my love in unique style and business background in consulting and retail management in retail business and consumer brands.”
The Birth of Geleyi
Geleyi was created due a void in distribution amongst emerging designers in African fashion. “Emerging designers need to address this challenge themselves with sales efforts but there is also an institutional void in the industry especially in African fashion that magnifies the designer’s challenge”. African prints have appeared on the runways of Stella Jean, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Junya Watanbe which has brought some form of development in African fashion, however the reach is very limited and marketing on a global scale remains something of a stumbling block for most African brands.
L-R: Stella Jean SS14, Louis Vuitton SS09, Junya Watanbe SS09, Burberry SS12| Photo Credit: Style.com
“Designers are investing a fortune to showcase their collections on these shows (fashion week). Fans are following and engaging with African fashion bloggers and tracking social media to incorporate African influences into their personal style. Yet designers are not reaching enough consumers, and many products are still out of reach for fans- they keep demanding, “where can I get these?” Maki is right. This is huge problem as some brands don’t have an online store or stock is very limited. There are even some brands that don’t update their collections. This makes it inaccessible for readers and turns them away and will prove difficult to find those clothes at your local high street or usual fashion outlets.
Tumisola Ladega at Africa Fashion Week London| Photo credit: BBC
“If they are determined to create their own label and grow their brand, they should redefine their role not just as fashion designers but also as entrepreneurs who cater their needs and wants of the customer beyond family and friends. Designers should think of that particular consumer who does not just fall in love with their product but also can’t resist purchasing it.”
Partnerships and Designers
Maki went on to discuss the selection process of the emerging designers and partnerships. “We are working closely with emerging designers not just as suppliers or users of our platform but as business partners. We believe that creating exposure for African fashion designers gives them the opportunity to grow the business and to reach their potential as emerging designers.”
When it comes to the selection process, Geleyi doesn’t follow the usual process but looks out for those who really stands out and adds value. “We are not implementing a cookie-cutter section process. The most important thing is to choose the right designers with vision, mission, ambition and passion. We are working with designers who are not just creatively talented but also echo our vision to establish a new market for African fashion and have proven ability to deliver.”
Maki gave me a sneak peak of some of the designers that will be under the Geleyi umbrella and one of them is Serwah Asante owner of Rue114. “She is an incredibly talented woman. It’s a contemporary brand of women’s fashion that is inspired by and created for women who think that every size should be celebrated as beautiful.” Another designer that will be added to the list is Ugonna Ibe who is the brainchild behind a new brand called Cinnamon & Pearl. “Cinnamon and Pearl specialises in combing fashion-forward pieces with a classic touch. A Cinnamon Woman is spicy, bold and daring. Says Maki. “A Pearl Girl is romantic, flirty and exciting. Ugonna is dedicated to creating a new African-inspired fashion that is smart, stylish and sustainable.”
Rue 114 quirky designs|Photo credit: Rue 114
The industry as a whole really needs to join forces to help the industry move to higher ground and to hopefully become as big as the leading fashion capitals. “Fashion shows organisers and PR/Marketing firms should consider maximizing impact by partnering with each other. We should all think about growing a pie instead of taking small shares within a small pie.”
The Future of Geleyi
As the interview goes on, we move to established designers and if they would be a part of Geleyi in the near future. Maki mentions a series of designers including Duro Olowu and Jewel by Lisa. “He (Duro Olowu) is definitely an established designer, but his passion and entrepreneurial spirit to try new prints and new channels touches Geleyi’s soul.” She goes on to talks about her love for Jewel by Lisa. “Jewel by Lisa’s work magnifies the colourfulness and beauty of Ankara prints. These designers are the source of inspiration as well as the role model of creating quality products for Geleyi that is keen on high-quality selling shopping experiences.”
Geleyi once again brings up partnership which has become a core part of the brand and building strong relationships and hopes to one day work with bloggers. “I cannot emphasize more regarding the importance of partnership. In particular, Geleyi has special respect for bloggers like Pop Goes Fashion because each of the bloggers has kept their followers passionate and engaged. I think that Geleyi can potentially facilitate curated offer of respective bloggers.”
You can really see the passion and the drive these two have for Geleyi and with the right brands and exposure, they will go far. “We would love to serve African fashion worldwide. We aspire to create more demands, which help designers to invest more into their new creative collections and to grow their businesses”.
I would like to thank Geleyi for speaking with Pop Goes Fashion and they would love if you could spare 5 mins of your time to take a survey to improve their services so they can serve their customers better. Here’s the link right here: http://bit.ly/16BeupL . Do you have questions or suggestions to Geleyi? Are you interested in working with Geleyi as a designer or partner, please send email at firstname.lastname@example.org