A shop within a shop – nothing new you may say. For years well established, deep-pocketed brands have anchored their luxury salons inside the compounds of the most exclusive shopping destinations around the world.
I recently discovered a little gem of a shopping space inside our own national temple of luxury, Holt Renfrew – their new project Uncrate Africa, featuring an array of not so known labels, côte à côte the fashion giants of the world.
The H Project tagline states, “a shop offering a selection of extraordinary products with extraordinary stories.” It is the brainchild of Alexandra Weston, the director of brand strategy at Holt’s. It is an even more challenging endeavour than her very successful Uncover India project that was launched a year ago. This time she explored a vast territory from the north to the south, visually curating what many pundits foresee as the next emerging fashion mecca– Africa.
As the capital H may suggest, at the core of this boutique are the noble words: Humanity, Health and Habitat. With increasing awareness of sustainability, educated luxury consumers certainly seem to be incubating a renewed interest in the equation between transparency, quality and products that are rooted in ancestral knowledge and craftsmanship. Add to this the growing confidence of the nations of Africa in their buying power and a desire to break away from the restraining clichés of economic dependence and the continuous cycles of wars.
This project is not a form of charity. At the core of the project is a keen business plan of shared economic benefits leading to competitive advantages in the high fashion market by enhancing social responsibility credentials. By offering something new, while opening the doors to a renewed sense of ethics, the new marketing strategy will provide support, foster economic independence, education and growth and help people in Africa regain a sense of cultural pride. Let’s not forget as well the keen focus on women’s empowerment and environmental concerns. Alexandra Weston’s goal is to give back and create exchanges that will benefit both the ethics of the contemporary global luxury consumer and the immediate needs of diverse communities in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Africa has often been the muse of some of the most celebrated artists in the world. Uncovering its overlooked treasures is an experiment to cherish, particularly after the sobering lessons from the unsustainable growth of low quality fast fashions in China. Infused with history, artisanal knowledge and endangered skills, the products from Africa exhibit design potentials too long overlooked. For Alexandra Weston the challenge was to hand pick the best artisans, while supporting them in the creation and the production of original designs that will meet the stringent quality standards of Holt’s and their discerning clientele.
“We are sowing the seeds of change…and yes we can as well collectively nurture the changes in mindsets,” said Weston.
Viva la Africa!
By Emmanuel St. Juste